A woman called off her wedding and married herself but ended up tying the knot with her original fiancé.
And Nicole Russo has vowed to celebrate the anniversaries of both her nuptials, which fall just days apart.
The 39-year-old was delighted when Paulo De Souza, 35, asked her to marry him in October 2013, a little over two-and-a-half years after they met, when he worked as a cleaner at her office.
Plagued by insecurity, less than a year later, the wellness centre boss, of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, broke off their engagement and on October 4, 2014, she married herself – reciting her vows into a mirror and even buying herself a ring.
“Self-marriage” worked miracles for Nicole, whose insecurities were banished and, in March 2018, she rekindled her romance with Paulo, now a construction worker, and on October 12, 2019, they said “I do” in front of 100 loved ones.
Still married to herself, as well, she said: “I made the choice to honour and commit to myself and now I’ve done the same with Paulo.
“My self-esteem and confidence has improved so much I can now believe I’m loveable. For so long, I couldn’t accept that, and that’s ultimately what broke us apart the first time.”
She continued: “People have asked me questions like, ‘Am I cheating on myself?’ I’m not sure if they are just wanting to be sensational, or are being very simplistic and old-fashioned in how they are thinking about marriage, but I always tell them it’s in the definition.
“My marriage to myself is not the same as my one to Paulo. It’s not a legal marriage, nor a traditional one with a church and big white dress. Rather, it’s a way of committing to and loving myself.”
Single for around 10 years when she first met Paulo in February 2011, Nicole, formerly an engineer, had quit her career to launch a business, after developing an interest in massage and wellness.
Establishing herself in a communal office space, she went on to meet her future husband at work.
She said: “There were some areas of the office that were always being left untidy, so I kept complaining to the landlord and we tried out various different cleaners.
“Then, one day, I noticed it was absolutely spotless. I wanted to thank whoever had done it, so I tracked down the cleaner – who turned out to be Paulo.”
“He’s from Brazil and only knew a few phrases in English at the start, but we’d see each other around and say hello,” Nicole continued.
“I didn’t even realise that he liked me at first – until I looked properly into his eyes one day and fell for him.”
After getting to know each other just as friends, Nicole and Paulo enjoyed their first date in April 2011 – communicating, because of the language barrier, using hand gestures and broken English, peppered with the little Spanish they both knew.
But a deep connection developed, which she says, “transcended words”, leading to them becoming an official couple and, after their relationship went from strength to strength, to their engagement in October 2013.
Excitedly arranging their special day, Nicole booked a venue – Willowdale State Forest in Massachusetts– and found her dream strapless beaded dress.
But she chose not to walk down the aisle on the appointed date in February 2015, explaining: “I began to feel unsure as to whether either of us was truly ready.”
She added: “I have a lot of trust issues and I worried we weren’t on the same page with commitment, but I also had all these thoughts in my head about how expectations of me would change once I was a wife.
“Paulo wasn’t pushing anything on me, it was all in my own head, but I felt like I’d be expected to be a certain way. Eventually, the relationship just felt like too much of a struggle.”
Devastated, Nicole called off the wedding in June 2014 and she and Paulo parted ways.
In the weeks that followed, she started thinking about self-love and how important it was for her to make peace with her own insecurities, before she could be truly happy in a relationship.
“I realised I had never felt as lovingly about myself as Paulo had about me,” she said.
“Then, a thought crossed my mind one day and I wondered, ‘Why don’t I just marry myself?’ There’s a big misconception that, somehow, that meant I was giving up on my love life. But to me, it was the opposite.”
Nicole added: “I wanted that special relationship and unbreakable bond with somebody, but I knew I needed one with myself first.”
Taking to the internet, Nicole began researching the idea of self-marriage – or sologamy – and found an online course, enrolling on it in August 2014.
She continued: “It basically became a place for me to process all the emotions I had about the break-up and to learn about self-love.”
“I slowly learnt how to love and honour myself and wrote some vows, where I promised to do what is right for me, rather than what I think other people want me to do,” she said. “I also made a vision board, showing all the things I wanted in my life.
“Some of the things were very obscure. For example, I stuck a photo of the Northern Lights, just as I thought they were beautiful – only to end up seeing them in person years later on a trip to Alaska, which I was invited on by chance.
“I also put a lovely picture I found of a happy couple laughing, as a rowing boat they were on tipped over.”
Nicole recalled: “Once Paulo and I got back together, we went on a trip up to Maine to stay in a cabin and took a kayak out onto the lake. Not only was it the same colour as the boat in the picture, but Paulo and I even fell out of it and laughed our heads off when we did.
“I remember thinking, ‘I’ve never seen him laugh like that.’ That’s when I knew the time apart had done us both good and given us the space we needed to grow.”
Once she completed her course, Nicole set a date to marry herself – October 4, 2014.
Before the big day, like any bride, she threw a hen party, gathering 12 of her friends and giving them all mirrors as gifts, before encouraging them to repeat, ‘I love you,’ to their reflections if ever they were struggling with self-doubt.
She recalled: “The wedding day itself I spent alone, which I thought was important.
“I married myself at home, not in a fancy dress, but in some lovely comfy pyjamas. I picked out a ring and said my vows to myself in front of a mirror, before lighting some candles with my vision board as a backdrop. Then, I tucked into a wedding cake I had bought myself.”
After that, newlywed-to-herself, Nicole found her confidence soaring.
In time, she was ready to explore the world of dating again, but found that nobody she met held a candle to Paulo.
Realising how much she missed him, she got back in touch – and happily, he felt the same way.
After a few initial dates, where they agreed to take things slowly, they officially got back together in March 2018 – going on to get engaged for the second time that October.
“We shopped for our rings together, which was really nice,” she said.
And in a far from traditional but truly happy ending, Nicole finally walked down the aisle on October 12 last year – just days after the fifth anniversary of her marriage to herself.
Speaking of the big day, she said: “We really took our time with planning it and I loved getting involved and making lots of little crafty things in the run-up.
“I made all the centrepieces, which were little animal figurines sprayed gold, as Paulo and I both love the zoo. We also gave all our guests sachets of coffee from his family’s coffee farm in Brazil.
“I wore a traditional bridal gown with lots of beading – not my original one – and he wore a burgundy suit. I walked myself down the aisle. I actually lost my dad, Bob, to cancer in 2015, but even if he had been here, I think I still would’ve wanted to walk myself.”
Now, as she settles into married life, Nicole is happier than ever – but says that juggling the commitments she has made to both herself and her husband has been a learning curve.
She continued: “It’s been interesting to learn how to strike a balance. Paulo is a very giving person but, as in any relationship, there are times when you have to compromise, or do things that you don’t necessarily want to. I’m still figuring out my own deal breakers, and how I can set boundaries and honour the commitment I made to myself, while still being a good partner.
“I make a point of still having that ‘me’ time. With Covid-19, I’ve not been able to actually go out as much as I normally would, but I’ll take myself off for a walk and get into nature, which I find very grounding.”
And Nicole will continue to celebrate both of her anniversaries – which fall within just eight days of each other. For her self-marriage anniversary, she usually takes herself off to a spa and she is hoping to mark one year of wedded bliss to Paulo with a romantic cabin trip.
Keen to challenge misconceptions about self-marriage and encourage other people to give it a try, she said: “The view of marriage and what it means is changing, which is amazing to see. More and more people are doing it their way.
“As women, the old-fashioned view of marriage can feel like you are giving part of yourself up to your husband, but we should value ourselves and a self-marriage ceremony is a great way to do that.”
“I’d encourage people to give it a go, even if it does feel a bit silly. There were times where I thought I was nuts and that nobody else in the world did this sort of thing,” Nicole concluded. “But once you learn to love yourself, it ripples out, and makes being kind to others come naturally.
“When we’re critical or gossipy about others, it isn’t really about them – it’s about how we judge ourselves.
“Marrying yourself isn’t easy. There are a lot of tears and forgiveness involved, but it’ll also be the most fulfilling thing you ever do.”