Statistics show that around 40 percent of marriages now end in divorce, meaning you've probably witnessed at least one. It’s an emotionally difficult event, for everyone involved, so the concept of throwing a party to celebrate the end of marriage is not something many of us could have ever imagined. But that's what's happening. It’s called a “divorce party,” and while the idea may seem like a highly-produced scene from the Real Housewives, these celebrations are becoming more commonplace, as proved by Instagram and Pinterest.
Carissa Coulston, PsyD, clinical psychologist, relationship expert, and author at The Eternity Rose, divorce parties started popping up around a decade ago and have since soared in popularity. “These days, people are always looking for an excuse to have a party, and since the end of a marriage is typically a sad time, this new concept aims to help those who are newly single feel more positive about the path that lies ahead” she says. It’s a celebration of a person’s freedom and future goals.
A post-split party can also act a vehicle for healing: “It can provide closure for one part of a person’s life and signal a new start, especially if a person was in a toxic relationship,” says Anita Chlipala, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love. “And having close friends and family around is a bonus.” This helps remind someone who is newly single that they are not alone, that they are loved and supported.
Usually hosted by friends or family members, divorce parties can happen in a multitude of ways. Some are similar in theme to a bachelor or bachelorette party, with a light-hearted, humorous atmosphere, Dr. Coulston says. Think banners, cakes, dancing, divorce rings, even gift registries. Though these sound like a lot of fun, some people prefer a smaller, more intimate event that gives them the opportunity to express their feelings – whether that’s by burning the wedding dress or simply talking while sipping wine.
Also, assuming it was an amicable divorce, both spouses can be involved. “If the couple decide to host a party together, it typically has a more somber tone and is generally aimed at easing any rifts that have formed between family members,” Dr. Coulston explains. In this case, it’s important to make sure that both divorcees are totally on board with the plans and that guests feel comfortable, especially any children.
Of course, a divorce party isn’t to everyone’s taste. “Some people are offended by the notion that one may celebrate the end of marriage, which is an institution considered sacred by many,” Jane Greer, PhD, a New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me?: Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship points out. “Also, for those who view the loss of their marriage in much the same way as a bereavement, then hosting a party to commemorate the event may be deeply inappropriate, or simply not the right time yet.”
Relationships are individual, as are divorce parties. “At the end of the day, it comes down to personal choice, the circumstances of the separation, and other factors which are unique to each person,” says Dr. Greer.