Hot new trend: Self-marriage

Old and busted: Same-sex marriage. New hotness: Same-person marriage! And it has the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, of sorts. The venerable magazine featured this “small but growing trend” two weeks ago in its coverage of the Anderson wedding in Brooklyn — a party-of-one affair:

“I choose you today,” [Erika Anderson] said. Later she tossed the bouquet to friends and downed two shots of whiskey, one for herself and one for herself. She had planned the event for weeks, sending invitations, finding the perfect dress, writing her vows, buying rosé and fresh baguettes and fruit tarts from a French bakery. For the decor: an array of shot glasses emblazoned with the words “You and Me.” In each one, a red rose.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” she noted on the wedding invitations. “I had cold feet for 35 years. But then I decided it was time to settle down. To get myself a whole damn apartment. To celebrate birthday #36 by wearing an engagement ring and saying: YES TO ME. I even made a registry, because this is America.”
Yes, and nothing says America like self-indulgence. Or is this “justice”?

Self-marriage is a small but growing movement, with consultants and self-wedding planners popping up across the world. In Canada, a service called Marry Yourself Vancouver launched this past summer, offering consulting services and wedding photography. In Japan, a travel agency called Cerca Travel offers a two-day self-wedding package in Kyoto: You can choose a wedding gown, bouquet, and hairstyle, and pose for formal wedding portraits. On the website I Married Me, you can buy a DIY marriage kit: For $50, you get a sterling silver ring, ceremony instructions, vows, and 24 “affirmation cards” to remind you of your vows over time. For $230, you can get the kit with a 14-karat gold ring.

It’s not a legal process — you won’t get any tax breaks for marrying yourself. It’s more a “rebuke” of tradition, says Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. “For generations, if women wanted to have economic stability and a socially sanctioned sex life or children, there was enormous social and economic pressure to do that within marriage,” she says. “Personally, as someone who lived for many years single and then did get married, I know that the kind of affirmation I got for getting married was unlike anything I’d ever had in any other part of my life.” That, she adds, is “incredibly unjust.”

This isn’t really a new thing; self-weddings have popped up occasionally for years. However, this is the first coverage I’ve seen of it as a trend, and certainly the first of having it dressed up as a form of social justice. Since when did affirmations become a right, and the lack of same “incredibly unjust”? No one is owed “affirmations” simply as a consequence of existence. People offer support and “affirmations” at weddings as a form of cultural support for the stability it provides, perhaps, but mainly as a way of supporting the two people who are taking the risk together to build something new.

It’s certainly arguable whether we offer too much “affirmation” for that — or better put, have overcommercialized it into the destination rather than the embarkation point of a long journey. But to argue that there’s a disparity between affirmation distribution between people who are actually doing something worth affirming and simply the status quo is to demand the right to ongoing participation trophies in life. This alleged trend seem designed to provide a particularly garish form of participation trophies to one’s self in front of a lot of other people, which raises self-absorption to an entirely satirical level.

That seems to be exactly the point of these events, which are more properly called self-weddings, not self-marriage. A marriage in any definition is an ongoing relationship between separate entities; a wedding is an event. Those who feel the need to throw themselves a big party in order to get affirmations from friends and relatives should be pitied rather than celebrated — and their friends should stage an intervention, not a reception.