— -- Yasmin Eleby sent an invitation to friends and family asking them to come celebrate her 40th birthday in a "unique way." Why was it unique? Yasmin Eleby had arranged a surprise marriage ceremony ... in which she married herself.
"I’d been saying a few years that if I hadn't gotten married by the time I was 40, I’d just have a wedding by myself," Eleby told ABC News today. "I decided I didn't want it to be a joke. I wanted to have a celebration of myself. My wedding was going to be about me making a commitment to love myself, to honor myself and to know my self-worth."
So Eleby got in touch with event planner Darrel Colone, who said she was the easiest and hardest client he ever had to work with.
Eleby said she started planning her Jan. 3 "wedding" during late-July 2014.
Colone said he loved that Eleby decided to plan such an unconventional event, so he chose an equally unusual venue -- the Houston Museum of African American Culture.
"We were allowed to choose an exhibit to have in the gallery area, where guests would arrive, and we chose 'Women of the New Tribe,' Colone said. "They were pictures of strong African American women in the country that reflected the strong, independent, cultured and well-traveled woman Yasmin was."
When Eleby arrived at the museum, guests were escorted to the ceremony space complete with candles, purple ambient light and beautiful flowers.
"Everyone was so amazed when they saw the room," Colone said. "They were like, 'Is this a wedding? A wedding? What's going on!'"
That's when Eleby said she came dancing down the aisle to Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely," along with her mother and bridesmaid. She was wearing a purple gown because purple is her favorite color. The dance ended at the altar in the center of the room. Colone said he arranged for Eleby to be in the middle of the guests arranged in a circle because he wanted her to be the center of attention.
Three ministers -- her eldest sister, a niece and friend -- then asked together, "Who thinks Yasmin is 40 and fabulous?" Colone said. He added that the 160 guests in the room chimed, "We do!"
The ceremony's mood changed, Yasmin said, when she started saying her vows to herself with the help of her ministers. They were on committing to forgive, love and honor yourself, she said.
"The advice and speeches given during my vows weren’t just for me," Eleby said. "Everyone there started reflecting on their life on how you have to forgive yourself for the past and know you are a worthy human being worthy of love. You first have to love yourself. The more love you have yourself, the more you can love others."
There was barely a dry eye in the room, Colone said, especially when Eleby sang, "I Believe I Can Fly," at the end of the ceremony.
Eleby said she was overwhelmed and started crying herself when she sang the second verse: "There are miracles in this life that I must achieve, but I know first that it starts inside of me."
The tears were quickly wiped away by the lavish reception afterwards, Colone said.
"Her first dance was a line dance strut with her Delta sorority sisters," Colone said. "The reception was amazing. She had everything -- four food stations with all the food anyone could possibly want, a photo booth, a live band, a D.J., and even a 5-foot-tall elephant ice sculpture. The kids even had their own room, so the parents could enjoy their adult fun on the floor."
Eleby is now back teaching kindergartners at a multinational school in Saudi Arabia. She said she recently had a second, smaller wedding and birthday celebration this past weekend with her friends there.
Though some people have tried to say Eleby's marriage to herself is ridiculous, she said she doesn't let it get to her.
"If they don’t understand the concept of self-love, I really don’t know what to say to them," Eleby told ABC News. "I have no words but, 'I am fabulous.' What I want people to take away from this is that they are worthy of love and forgiveness no matter what they've done in the past."
Eleby also revealed to ABC News that she is dating someone right now.
"I don’t know if marriage is in the future or not," she said. "I've thought that about my past relationships, but they all ended amicably because they just weren't going."
Two of her exes actually attended her wedding in Houston.
"This is something you'd do, totally up your ally," Eleby said they told her.