WOMAN GETS MARRIED IN CHURCH TO HERSELF
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25).
Sophie Tanner took the drastic step to marry herself after waiting endlessly for her Mr. Right. The 37-year-old woman who works at a search engine optimisation agency and lives in Brighton tells her story:
“As I walked up the church steps in my cream lace bridal gown, I couldn’t help but beam at my friends and family who’d come to see me wed. But there was no groom to meet me – I was marrying myself.
“During my 20s and early 30s, I had three serious relationships that all ended after my boyfriends cheated, which made it hard for me to trust men.
“When my last relationship broke down six years ago, I was devastated, but once the fog had lifted, I knew I’d never let anyone have control over my feelings again. I thought: ‘Why should I wish my life away waiting for The One when I can be my own One?’
“In 2009, I emailed the ceremonies officer at a registry office to ask whether it was possible to marry myself. He replied saying that marriage is between a man and a woman to the exclusion of everyone else (gay marriage had not yet been legalised), but I kept thinking about it and spent the next five years researching the concept of self-marriage.
“In January 2015, despite the fact that it still wouldn’t be legally binding, I decided I really wanted to make a meaningful commitment to myself. Planning my big day felt empowering. I didn’t wish I was doing it with a groom. I did feel a bit silly at first, though, when people asked whether I’d have to ‘divorce’ myself if I met someone I liked.
“But I had no intention of cutting off relationships forever and soon realised that as long as I was true to my vows – loving myself for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer – I could do what I liked.
“My dad was completely accepting, and even asked what suit he should wear on the big day. My mum was really happy for me and most of my friends were supportive, too. One, an anthropologist, said it was like the coming-of-age ceremonies practised in other cultures.
“The wedding took place on May 16, 2015 – a gloriously sunny Saturday. As I changed into my dress, jitters gave way to excitement. My 15 bridesmaids and I danced from Brighton Pier to the Unitarian Church to the sound of Chesney Hawkes’ The One And Only. We all carried bouquets of sunflowers to represent happiness.
“Rather than holding the ceremony inside the church, I decided to conduct it on the front steps with my friend James officiating, dressed in a bishop’s costume. Having him there helped me feel comfortable in front of my family and friends and passers-by, who either loved it or thought it was a joke. When James said: ‘I now pronounce you wife,’ I felt euphoric as everyone cheered.
“After the ceremony, 60 of us walked to a bar on the beach and spent the afternoon drinking Pimm’s. I didn’t have a cake or make a speech, but the day was perfect. I haven’t been on honeymoon yet, but I’m planning to help out at a friend’s volunteer project in Uganda when I can afford it. I spent around £800 on the wedding, and it was worth every penny.
“Nine months on, I have no regrets. I feel like a stronger person and happier in my own company. Whenever I feel down, I remind myself that I promised to be my own best friend. My friends love introducing me by saying: ‘This is Sophie. She married herself!’
“As my marriage isn’t legally binding, I could marry someone else without committing bigamy, but I intend to stick to the vows I made for the rest of my life. If I meet someone, I won’t hesitate to tell them about my self-married status – if he thinks I’m weird, he probably isn’t right for me!
“If I’m still just married to myself when I’m 70, that’s fine by me.”
12th February, 2016