I Got Married To Myself Last Year & Learned Something Powerful About Love
I wore a fanciful floral outfit—not a white dress—and made my way to the lush spa cenote. Fernanda, a shaman, was waiting there for me, beating a tambourine with several palm leaves decoratively placed on the floor before her. Music escaped from behind the trees, where a partially concealed man was playing a flutelike instrument that added intensity to the whole affair. Raindrops poured just before we began, a foreshadowing of the cleansing ahead.
After four days of introspection and rest, I was ready to get married to myself, say my vows, and truly mean them.
Though there are no official numbers, sologamy—marriage to oneself—appears to be gaining some popularity. Back in 1996, NBA star Dennis Rodman donned a white wedding dress to marry himself. Then the concept really hit the mainstream after a 2003 Sex and the City episode, "A Woman's Right to Shoes," where, in defiance of the stigmatism faced by single, unmarried women, Carrie Bradshaw announced to a friend that she intended to wed herself and set up her own registry. Today, dedicated companies, packages, and retreats have popped up to cater to people wanting to say "I do" to themselves.
In general, the single population in the U.S. has been steadily growing since 1990, according to a recent analysis from the Pew Research Center. Roughly 38% of adults in the U.S. were unpartnered in 2019, up from 29% in 1990. Some are forgoing marriage altogether, and a select few are actively choosing themselves as "the one."
One particular experience I kept hearing about was the Marry Oneself Journey at Rosewood Mayakoba, a resort along Mexico's Riviera Maya. Far from a headline-grabbing gimmick, this self-marriage ceremony is set over four days and led by a resident healer with pre-Hispanic shamanism lineage, with a focus on self-connection and healing. Having recovered from an erratic infatuation with finding someone else to love, this self-love ritual seemed like the perfect way to reaffirm my commitment to myself.
Back in January of 2019, I decided to give up dating and all romantic relationships for the entire calendar year. This was to recharge after a series of heartbreaks and the realization that I had viewed my own life as empty if it didn't include a "better half" to complete me. Like many women, I judged myself and damningly believed that I would be a failure if nobody ever put a ring on it. Rather than taking responsibility for my own contentment, I based my happiness on my relationship status. I jumped into relationships headfirst, often lost myself, and put other people's needs ahead of my own.
That year of singledom kick-started a radical journey to fill up my self-love tank that has included travel, sweet solitude, and soul-searching. That time to myself helped me finally shed such limiting beliefs, and I feel deeply grateful for the fact. Marrying myself was thus the ultimate commemoration and celebration of this turnaround.
Relationships may come and go, but I will always have myself, and what a marvelous prospect that is.
From the moment I arrived at Rosewood Mayakoba and my welcome boat glided toward my suite, I had a sense of calm and a strong suspicion that something remarkable was around the corner for me.
This self-marriage program combines the four elements that we are: water, wind, earth, and fire. According to Emmanuel Arroyo, the regional director of spas and wellness at Rosewood Mayakoba, the act of recognizing oneself through connections with natural elements as a path to fulfillment stems from Mayan culture. Fernanda Montiel, an Indigenous third-generation shaman, guides you through each step.
While the exact process can be customized depending on what you want as part of your marriage ceremony, generally over the four days an individual will do things like align their chakras, enjoy some incredible treatments, learn to breathe, and cleanse their mind, body, and spirit as they symbolically burn all the things they wish to expunge from their life in an igloo-shaped temazcal lodge, where I am told people often sing and cry. This experience culminates with a graduation-like "marriage ceremony" on the fourth day with the beautiful spa cenote as the wedding venue.
I was excited to meet Fernanda, which I did for the first time during a sunrise gratitude walk along the beach. She was slight with waist-length raven locks and a smile that thoroughly put me at ease. She called me hermanita ("little sister" in Spanish), and I instantly trusted her.
This came in handy as, for one of our first exercises together, she was about to make me follow her in pretending to be a series of animals. I shapeshifted from a butterfly with flapping arms to hunching like a jaguar. Passersby looked on in bewilderment as I connected to the earth while running, walking, and jumping on the beach. Fernanda informed me that this was also an exercise in shedding self-judgments. "If you don't judge yourself, nobody else can either," she said. "And if you judge yourself, you will judge others, too, because this is a reflection."
Sufficiently fatigued from my quasi-jungle adventure, we moved over to a quiet corner of the beach for a gratitude practice. We offered thanks to the sun, our most powerful source of energy; we asked the moon to help us remember our dreams; we expressed gratitude for our breath, which balances and nourishes us; and we gave thanks to our parents who cared for us long before we could care for ourselves. Now, it was my turn to take over from them and show myself unconditional love.
During our gratitude circle, Fernanda emphasized that we are independent of our parents and loved ones, and we needn't source joy or pain from them. We are to take responsibility for our own happiness, hold our own hearts, and choose ourselves in order to be happy with other people. I began to see that this whole journey of marrying myself was very much about prioritizing self-care, forgiving myself, and accepting my light and dark sides because I am "the one" and the only constant in my life. Relationships may come and go, but I will always have myself, and what a marvelous prospect that is.
The generous helpings of food for thought that Fernanda provided helped prepare me for my wedding ceremony on the fourth and final day.
I can be a better partner because I don’t need my partner to fulfill me, I know they are not responsible for my happiness, and I know how to show them love and compassion because I treat myself the same way.
I had butterflies as I walked toward the spa cenote, where Fernanda was standing, also dressed for the occasion in a flowing dress. Throughout the event, she flitted between English, Spanish, and various Indigenous tongues as she guided me through my vows and proclamations.
During the ceremony, I looked at my reflection in a bowl of water and pledged not to lose touch with my desires. It was cathartic and liberating to look myself in the eyes and say the words that many long to hear from other people: I promise to take care of you and show you compassion, I trust you, and I am sorry if I ever hurt you. Saying the vows felt liberating, and I cried tears of joy, sadness, and relief all at once.
The self-marriage ceremony was the ultimate love letter to myself, which has helped to restructure my tenets of self-care: forgiveness, self-reflection, connection to nature, owning my past, and being true to my needs and dreams. I take marriage very seriously, and I am more likely to unwaveringly treat myself as "the love of my life" having made these promises out loud.
Some may view sologamy as egocentric, a means of proclaiming superiority, rejecting others, or being critical of traditional marriage. In reality, it's honoring yourself and celebrating your wholeness—which ultimately improves relationships with other people.
I am now married to myself, but I don't have a ring, I didn't update my social media profiles to say I am married, and I won't be committing bigamy if I have a wedding with another person in the future, to which I am wholeheartedly open.
Self-marriage is not about eschewing outside love. It is something that can be done even if you are looking for a partner or are already in a committed relationship with another person. I currently have someone in my life, and I can be a better partner to him because I can cultivate healthy boundaries, I don't need him to fulfill me, I know he is not responsible for my happiness, and I know how to show him love and compassion because I treat myself the same way.
In many ways, my self-marriage ceremony was just like a traditional two-person wedding. I had confetti, music, gifts, a magnificent venue, and I emerged from it feeling feverishly excited to spend the rest of my life with "the one."
Rosie Bell is a location-independent writer, editor, and author of Escape to Self and The Art & Business of Travel Writing. She has a master's degree in Brands, Communication, and Culture from Goldsmiths, University of London and has written for Forbes Travel Guide, BBC, Fodor’s, Shondaland, and Lonely Planet. She has also appeared as a travel and life design expert on the likes of ABC News and NBC News.