Jen Harju flew all the way to Las Vegas and ascended high into the sky in a hot-air balloon for her wedding proposal in November.
But instead of looking across the basket into the eyes of a loving partner, she looked into a film camera — and at a group of unsuspecting German tourists along for the ride — and popped the question to herself.
Harju is part of a growing movement of people marrying themselves, colloquially called self-partnering. For some, the idea might sound ridiculous or even self-centred, but the Ottawa woman said it’s a decision she took seriously.
She was also nervous enough to forget some of the words she’d written.
I think everyone should marry themselves before they marry anyone else.– Jen Harju
“I’ve had a marriage before and I’m just such a romantic. I thought, next time, I wanted to be really romantic and it wasn’t happening with my partners,” Harju told CBC Radio’s Ottawa Morning about why she climbed aboard the hot-air balloon.
“So I decided to do it myself. Why? Because I think it’s really important to invest in yourself and honour yourself.”
Recently, the phenomenon of self-partnering made headlines after British actress Emma Watson told Vogue she was self-partnered and happy.
Amen Jafri is creating the hour-long documentary about self-partnering. She was in the hot-air balloon with Harju, behind the camera. Jafri hopes to film Harju’s entire experience, from the proposal to her wedding this spring.
Just like the proposal, the wedding will not be an entirely traditional affair – Harju’s skipping the white dress. However, she will be saying vows.
Jafri’s film will also look at the evolution of marriage.
Once upon a time, marriage was about uniting families and consolidating wealth, with romantic love rarely playing into the equation, she said. Romantic love soon took over as the primary reason people tied the knot.
The local filmmaker said the number of single people is only increasing and society no longer solely caters to those desiring a traditional family.
She said it’s reasonable to assume marriage would evolve alongside this societal shift.
“I think this is just a natural step in that evolution,” she said.
She was also attracted to the topic as it pushed back against the notion that women need to check certain boxes by the time they’re in their 30s: a long-term partner, a house, children.
“I’m not sure marriage works for everyone,” Jafri said.
Another relationship not a priority
Harju isn’t giving up on relationships. If the right person entered her life, hercommitment to love herself wouldn’t preclude that relationship.
“I think everyone should marry themselves before they marry anyone else.”
As for what she asked herself in the skies over Nevada, she told herself that she wanted to love – through the good, the bad, sickness and health – and not neglect herself.
“What’s really important to me is having the most important relationship, the one with myself,” she said. “So I think that’s the basis of a strong foundation for any other relationship.”
When Harju finished her self-proposal, her German co-passengers appeared to support her decision.
“They actually cheered really loud afterwards.”