self marriage
© ABC Life: Samantha Turnbull
Holly English (centre) wanted a wedding but didn't have a partner, so she married 'existence'.
Holly English buttons up her white gown, clutches her bouquet and begins her walk down the aisle.

Friends cheer and throw petals as Holly takes her place in front of the celebrant... alone.

But she hasn't been stood up by a groom or bride. Holly is marrying her greatest love: existence.

"Earlier this year I thought, 'What is something I've always wanted to do?', like a bucket list thing ... and I thought, 'I've always wanted to get married,'" she says.

"I have a sense of universal intimacy, loving everything, life and people ... so I thought, 'I'm going to marry existence. That's not too insane.'"

Famous solo commitments

Marrying without a partner is not legally recognised, but it's also not new.

The first publicised solo marriage (known as sologamy) was an American woman named Linda Barker in 1993. Three years later, NBA star Dennis Rodman donned a veil and dress and married himself. And a wave of single-yet-wedded brides (and the occasional groom) have followed.

Meanwhile, the term 'self-partnered' officially entered the cultural lexicon just recently when actor Emma Watson described her relationship status in an interview with British Vogue.

emma watson
© AP: Jose Luis Magana
Actress Emma Watson says she is 'self-partnered.'
Social researcher Janeen Baxter, from the University of Queensland, says public declarations of self-partnering or marriage are a method of defying conventional gender stereotypes.

"One way to rebut traditional gender roles is to rebut the necessity of a relationship as a defining feature of identity," Professor Baxter says.

"Often very successful women are defined in the media in terms of their relationship or motherhood status. High profile women who do not follow a traditional model are seen as oddities and somehow not a 'real' woman."

A case in point is actor Jennifer Aniston who tabloids have repeatedly labelled "poor Jen" despite her insisting she was happy being childless and single.

Marriage motivations

For Holly, a 43-year-old artist from Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, her wedding was a fun feminist declaration.

"I feel I did a lot of suffering in the process of trying to meet a guy," she says.

"I spent a lot of time living in the future thinking, 'When it happens, I'll be happy.'

"I've now accepted that I may never find a partner, and I'm happy now — but I still wanted a wedding.

"I also wanted to show that I don't need a man to make my dreams come true.

"This is a statement and a revolution for women to show them, 'If you want something, you can do it yourself.'"

Linda Doktar, a 35-year-old "self-connection coach" in Bali, married herself on the Gold Coast in 2017.

She says the ceremony wasn't a way of shutting potential partners out.

"It was never about being by myself for the rest of my life," Linda says.

"It was a ritual. The intent was a deep honouring of myself, healing and self-love."

Comment: So she married herself temporarily, despite the fact that marriage is (at least) supposed to be considered a lifelong commitment. Does anyone enter into a marriage thinking it's only temporary (other than the bureaucracy work-arounds involving citizenship, perhaps)? If Doktar does meet someone she wishes to start a relationship with, will she have to divorce herself first? Polygamy is illegal in Australia, after all.

Are we making a mockery of marriage?

Linda has had to put that self-love into practice since photos of her wedding went viral on social media.

"Ninety-five per cent of the comments were negative," she says.

"But it was funny, I laughed.

"It shows that we're so conditioned to what marriage is, or what we think it should be."

Comment: Yeah, marriage shouldn't be what it has been about for eons, it should be whatever some ditz like this woman wants it to be, to serve her own narcissism. She just "wanted to get married", so why not, just do it. Cheapen it to the point that the very definition of marriage - TWO people joining together in a life-long commitment - is completely trashed by removing one of the people.

Holly says she's felt nothing but supported by her community.

"If anyone witnessed what we did, they'd see that it was sacred," she says.

"It had fun and silliness, but it was also beautiful."

Both Holly and Linda say they remain open to finding love with another human, and potentially re-marrying.

Partnerships persist

Professor Baxter says despite fewer people marrying in Australia than in the 1970s, there is no evidence that fewer people are partnering.

"There is evidence that marriage has been moved to a later stage in the life course, following a period of cohabitation," she says.

"And some people choose to cohabit indefinitely without formal marriage.

"Marriage is being defined differently, as a capstone after other life course stages.

"Definitions of marriage will continue to change, but I doubt marriage will disappear. I'm not at all surprised that it does not mean the same as it did in the 1950s."