'Divorce Parties' Are the New Way to Say Goodbye to a Bad Marriage

Divorce PartySeveral years ago, I was out at a winery with my then-husband, when a gaggle of 30-something ladies burst out of a limo and managed to walk in their heels and wedges and tight dresses and tiaras and saunter their way to the bar. I assumed bachelorette party, but was saddened and dismayed to discover it was a divorce party.

Now that I'm tentatively planning my own divorce party, my view on the matter has changed a bit, to say the least. In fact, when I told a good friend at the time about it, she told me, "Honey, finding the strength to leave a bad marriage is a cause for celebration."


My marriage was bad. I mean, it wasn't all bad -- nothing is ever all bad or all good (that's today's free therapy for ya right there), but it was ... let's say challenging. We had very different ideas about what love, marriage, and partnership meant and were unable to reach a livable compromise.

I do not regret my marriage. It made me who I am, and not to get all Stuart Smalley on you, but I kinda like who I am these days. Not to mention, I got two gorgeous, too-smart-for-their-own-good daughters out of it.

At the same time, I don't regret my divorce either. Not one iota. It also contributed to who I am today, and guess what? I'm able to be a better, more present and involved mom than ever, because I'm not constantly pre-occupied trying to figure out how the heck I can fix my relationship.

It's a cause for celebration, but not because the marriage ended. That sucks. It freaking sucks that my marriage ended. But when something awful happens, something needs to be reborn out of it. Why do you think the story of the phoenix, the magical bird who bursts into flames and is reborn out of the ashes, is so popular?

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Because when everything seems to turn into ash, we need a rebirth. That's why I want to have a celebration to mark the occasion when my divorce is finally final. It's not about the ending -- it's about a new beginning.

I talked to renowned party planner Richard O'Malley, who has planned several of these divorce parties in his career, and apparently I'm not alone. As the concept of the divorce party has taken root in popular culture, Richard has strived to help the newly single by marking the occasion with a "freedom fest," as he likes to call it. He says:

This term is important because far too many people hear "divorce party" and think people are celebrating the end of a marriage. That couldn't be any further from the truth. What is being celebrated is that you are "taking back" what is important you, mostly your memories. In this country, women think about their wedding day since they were little girls. When they get married those memories are WONDERFUL, until the marriage doesn't work. Then, after the divorce, ALL OF THOSE MEMORIES become bitter reminders. Freedom Fests help you reclaim those feelings and take back those memories. 

Thank you! One of the challenges you face as a divorcee is bitterness -- how could it all turn out so badly in the end? But acceptance that it happened, it wasn't all bad, and things can only get better from here is awesome.

Richard is all about the "no bitterness" aspect of divorce parties too, which I think is important. He says it's about taking back, and not looking back.

He described one client with the most elaborate divorce celebration he's planned -- a reverse wedding. He said, "We created a small ceremony area where we had them 'take back their vows' and had her father 'take her back' from a stand-in for the groom."

They also had the girl who caught the bouquet at the wedding throw a dried flower replica back to the bride! His favorite touch, he mentioned, were the favors they gave out to their guests -- silver picture frames containing a picture of the gift the guest had given at the original wedding had they attended.

While that may be a little bit too "conscious uncoupling" for me personally, I get that people have to do what they have to do to move on with their lives, and more power to them.

And that's the best thing anyone can do after a divorce, no matter what the cause of it ... move on. Preferably with some sort of celebration.

Are you turned off by the idea of divorce parties, or do you think it can help in the recovery process?


Image via Al Ojeda

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