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Why these women were encouraged to marry themselves

"It was one of the most life changing experiences of my life.”

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By Abygail Fossett and Alice Clifford via SWNS

Women have been encouraged to marry themselves in celebration of self-love as part of an art project.

After marrying herself in 2020, SOPHIE Sophia, an artist, has encouraged others to do the same.

This was the focus of her summer exhibition, "My SELF(ish) Portrait Gallery."

Over the course of her exhibition, SOPHIE, 40, married seven people to themselves, each with a personally meaningful ceremony.

Talking about her own marriage, SOPHIE, from Woodbridge, Sussex, England said: “I walked into the sea for my ceremony and was spectacularly bashed around.

“Onlookers were not aware of what was happening. It was one of the most life changing experiences of my life.”

She added: “I hand stitched my self-portrait into the sheet which became my veil and dress.

“I also created a ceremonial gown to wear when performing the self marriages with the women.

“I laid red napkins for them to walk down the ‘aisle’ to the altar which was the sheet. The sheet, which gifts so much, a place to lay, to create life, to end life.

“The sheet is a constant ‘mother’ from the moment we are born to the moment we die.”

SOPHIE'S name is art in itself. She said: "As a woman signs an art work traditionally it has gone down in value.

"I am making a point by capitalizing my name to capitalize on it."

As well as her first name, SOPHIE has made changes to her surname. After marrying herself this summer she decided to change her last name to Sophia.

She said: "After I married myself (again) this year I changed my surname by deed poll to Sophia.

"Reclaiming the tradition of being named after craft, this dates back to pre 1066, my craft is wisdom which is what Sophia means. A love of wisdom."

For Amy Willis from Ipswich, her wedding day ended in a splash.

She said: “The day SOPHIE was doing it happened to coincide with the day I was leaving my job.”

Amy had made the decision to leave secondary school teaching after 15 years.

She added: “I feel like as women in particular, we do a lot of things celebrating other people, but we don’t necessarily do anything to celebrate ourselves.

“I thought, what a lovely way to celebrate myself and putting myself first."

Amy wore a white dress for the ceremony, took part in meditation and shared a piece of writing she had prepared.

The day ended with a celebration with her husband and two children on the beach.

She said: “I actually ended up going for a swim in my dress. That was a bit impromptu.”

Her husband, she said, was very supportive of her decision to commit to herself in this way.

She added: “He can see that I’ve been on a journey these past few years.

“This is a culmination of that journey, of being brave and trying different things.”

For Philippa, a shoe designer from London, the ceremony was about showing herself and others that nobody needs a partner to be complete.

She said: “Women especially are still brainwashed from an early age into thinking they have to get married and there are a lot of rewards - a big party, presents, attention, security and government tax breaks that send the message it’s the right thing to do.

“But I know people who’ve had all that, and the illusion has worn off. If you have resisted that conventional path or just not been lucky enough to meet someone, it can feel like you have failed in some way.”

Philippa, 49, was staying with a friend in Aldeburgh, Sussex, when they visited SOPHIE’s exhibition.

When she learned about SOPHIE’s project, Philippa impulsively decided that she, too, would marry herself.

She said: “In some ways, I’ve spent a lifetime preparing for the vows which I just made up on the spot.

“I didn’t have any flowers or music so I grabbed a nearby lemon, held it aloft and sang my own wedding march as I processed through the gallery.

“I made a commitment to myself and to self-acceptance and SOPHIE pronounced some sort of blessing.

“I think self-marriage, whilst being a bit of fun performance art, was also a way to verbalize to myself that I am enough on my own and I deserve to live a joyful life regardless.”

For artist and sculptor Hanna Varga, the idea of marrying herself had been one which came to her before she heard about SOPHIE’s project.

Shortly before the pandemic, Hanna moved from London to Leiston. This was an isolating time for Hanna, who had swapped a busy life as an exhibiting artist for a coastal town where she knew very few people.

However, immersing herself in the Suffolk countryside left Hanna feeling that she was reconnecting with herself.

She began incorporating plants into her work, weaving baskets and experimenting with texture.

She said: “I made myself a ring from a dandelion stem. At the time, this ring felt like an engagement ring.”

When SOPHIE, a friend of Hanna’s, told her about the self-marriage project, Hanna felt compelled to tell her all about the engagement ring, and decided that she, too, would marry herself.

SOPHIE was present at her ceremony as a witness.

Hanna said: “I asked SOPHIE if she would like to dance, and we danced around this big, empty room in which a sheet was suspended to divide the space.

“I stopped on one side and she stopped on the other, and we touched hands.

“It felt like confession, a space where I could not see her but I could talk to her and touch her.”

Hanna vowed that she would not stray too far from her authentic self.

She added: “My commitment vow was a promise that I will always return my gaze to the center, and that will be my compass, the North Star I will navigate by, no matter how far life throws me.”

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