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Weddings

Happily ever after: Meet the Kiwi bride who has married herself

Genie Em is after a happily ever after with herself!

By Julie Jacobson
It was a perfect day for a wedding.
The bride wore an electric-blue dress and bare feet. On her head was a hand-made wreath incorporating tiny rosebuds and rosemary, in memory of her parents.
A peridot engagement ring, a five-stone rose gold eternity ring and a wedding band sparkled in the sun.
So far, nothing unusual.
But this wasn't your typical wedding – as the bride, 65-year-old Genie Em, was marrying herself.
Genie was one of five women who stood in front of a full- length mirror and said "I do" to themselves under a driftwood arch on Nelson's Tahunanui Beach earlier this month, with curious beachgoers and a small group of well-wishers looking on.
After the ceremony there were refreshments and a dip in the ocean. There was laughter and tears as the brides hugged each other in solidarity.
The celebration of self-love was in stark contrast to Genie's first wedding in 1986.
"Then there was no engagement ring, no wedding ring and no honeymoon. There was just this kind of procedure," she recalls.
Thirteen years and three children later the couple split up. It had been a troubled marriage.
Genie felt unloved and not valued. She needed to "re-find herself" and in 2004 she bought herself a $14,600 cut emerald engagement ring.
"So really I have been on this journey since then," she reveals.
"For me it was about finding myself again, knowing who I really am."
The expensive ring has since been auctioned, with the money going towards her current ones.
Self-marriage, or sologamy, has been described as selfish, self-obsessed, narcissistic, a trend cooked up by Generation Selfie to raise online profiles.
However, committing to yourself is also, for some, a rebuttal of traditional roles – why wait around for someone else to make it happen when you can do it yourself?
The first woman to marry herself is reported to be Linda Baker, an American who pledged to be good to herself in front of seven bridesmaids and 75 family and friends, on her 40th birthday in 1993.
Ten years later, in an episode that screened in 2003, Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah-Jessica Parker) announced she was marrying herself in celebration of her choice to be single and childless, and more recently happily single actress Emma Watson (29) described her relationship status as self-partnered.
But for former teacher Genie, tying the knot didn't mean she doesn't want another relationship at all.
She explains, "Personally,I would quite like to have a partner, but I want someone who's going to be honest with me and give me the freedom to be myself, and do the things that I want to do. I hope to offer them the same – trust, respect and integrity."
The beach ceremony was an affirmation of where she is in her life now, a celebration of personal happiness and contentment rather than a statement of empowerment, she asserts.
"That came earlier. This was more something I did for myself, confirmation that I have moved on.This was about me marrying my best friend – and I am my best friend.
"It's a matter of loving yourself first – then there's space for loving other people. It's about learning who you are, what your limits are and then applying those to others around you."
There was also a hint of nostalgia – "part of it was dreaming of the wedding I never had" – plus the wreath she made for the big day featured rosemary in remembrance of her parents Dorothea and Tom, and tiny pink Cecile Brunner rosebuds, a rose her mum grew in the family garden.
"It was to thank them," Genie tells.
"Dad was a sole-charge principal and a farmer, and Mum was a teacher. We made our own butter and cheese, and we grew our own vegetables. We had a latrine in the garden and there was no washing machine for a long time, but it was a wonderful lifestyle."
And while there was no special wedding dress – she made do with a cobalt-blue sleeveless number she already had in her wardrobe – there may be a honeymoon, of sorts.
Genie has bought a van and plans to take a road trip around New Zealand.

Genie's vows:

Dedication to Me, myself & I.
I, Genie Em, of Nelson, New Zealand, declare the following:
  1. I love, honour and cherish who I am and what I have become.
  1. I acknowledge the journey I have been on and continue to travel.
  1. I recognise myself as my best friend.
Today I will marry my best friend
The one I have laughed with and cried with
The one I have learned from and shared with
The one I have chosen to support, encourage and dedicate to myself for all my days given me.
May I share with others who care for me and learn from those who don't as they are on a different journey.
Difficult pathways often lead to beautiful destinations.

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