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A Wedding to One's Own

Desiree Cooper

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With this ring, I me wed
(Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty Images)
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Spring has sprung, and you know what that means: wedding season. Love is in the air -- especially at my house, where my daughter Rae is on the phone talking nonstop about boys:

"If he's, you know, not that much taller than me," says Rae to her best friend, "then if I'm wearing heels and I'm at the dance and I'm taller than him in heels... that's not going to work."

Rae's 17, a month away from senior prom, graduation and starting her life.

There's so much I want to tell her as she becomes an adult. A grown woman. I want her to feel good about herself, to love who she is. But her mind isn't on self-examination. It's on one thing: snagging a date for the prom.

"So right now I guess it's kind of between Preston and Christian," Rae says, still yacking about the prom. "But the thing with Preston is, if I take Da-Ron, he's Preston's best friend -- and I can't do that to him. So then..."

How am I going to get through to her? Here's an idea: She has to wear a long white gown for graduation. While she's celebrating an educational rite of passage, why not add a ring and stage another rite of passage?

A wedding.

Rae just might go for it. She's been dreaming about her wedding for years.

"I kinda want him to wear, like, a white tuxedo with red shirt," said Rae. "It's gonna look really hot."

But I'm not talking about THAT kind of ceremony -- I want my daughter to vow to love, honor and cherish herself, long before she walks down the aisle with a groom.

I first heard of self-marriage about four years ago. A young woman bought a simple dress, found an African priest, got a bunch of flowers and said vows to herself on a California beach.


When I got married almost 25 years ago, I had never lived by myself. I easily got lost juggling my marriage, career and kids. I disappeared into the family's neediness. I had no idea what made me happy.

As our kids got older and started doing their own thing, I found myself in the middle of a divorce. A divorce from my old self.

I started thinking about what I wanted. I changed my hair. I changed careers. I changed how I treated my body and respected my own time. I want to make sure that Rae doesn't wake up at 48 and wonder who she is.

"The idea is that you'd get married to yourself," I explained.

"So it would be like a nun getting married to Jesus, basically."

"A nun getting married to Jesus?" I asked, shocked.

"Yeah. That's what they do."

Wait a minute, that's not where I was headed... I need some expert help here.

"It's about creating a vow that represents who you are, what's important and where you're going in your life," says Ken Donaldson, a Florida therapist and life coach. Last month, he conducted a self-marriage ceremony for 24 people. He said they're all now better prepared to be in a relationship.

He ought to know. "I met my wife when I was 29 years old," said Ken, "and I was like, 'Oh man, look!' I'm an eye guy, you know? I looked at those eyes and it was like 'Oh my gosh, look at those eyes, they're amazing.' And as I got to know her, there was a real ease in the friendship we had. It was very easy for us to be with each other."

But the week after they married, Ken started grad school, and a new career. The stress tore at their relationship. They divorced after six-and-a-half years. "Here's the self-proclaimed relationship expert ready to go out and change the world," Ken said, "and he's going through a divorce."

So he worked on figuring out who he was. He inspected his old baggage. Finally, he learned the art of loving himself.

"I have to know where I'm going in my life," he said. "I have to have a vision. I have to understand my purpose. I have to know what's truly important to me. When you know that and you live by that, you have married yourself."

That all sounds so... healthy. I decided to take one more pass at this self-marriage thing with Rae. After all, Queen Latifah did it and told everybody about it on Oprah.

"No, because I'll look, like, ridiculous," Rae said.


"Because nobody gives themselves a wedding," she laughed. "Just for you, just to amuse you, I'll keep it in the back of my mind."

"That means no," I said.

"In a nice way, yeah."

OK, I get it. She has more self-discovery to do before she's ready to commit to herself. But I hope that she gets to know what's in her own heart before she decides to share it with someone else.

That would be a true act of love.


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Walter Forrest

    From Bellevue, NE, 07/10/2008

    If your wanting to give your daughter insperation to follow though with this you might need an insperational story. Try Janet Downes of Bellevue, NE


    By Neena Pottoore

    From Troy, MI, 05/29/2008

    Beautiful When do we really learn to love ourselves. I am still learning who "ME" is.

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