After all the effort that people put into their wedding day, the day they formalize their divorce can often feel empty and awkward — on top of whatever emotions one might have about the end of a marriage. That’s why the divorce party has become quite the trend over the past few years, finding its way into celebrity gossip, movies, and many, many Pinterest boards.
Friends of Nicole Niesner, of Saskatchewan, Canada, made headlines this week by showing up at her house on the day her divorce was finalized, toting their wedding dresses. They all put on the gowns, even Niesner, to toast to the new chapter in her life.
“Even though I am OK with being divorced, it just lifted me up and reminded me that I am loved and that I have lots of great people in my life,” she told Inside Edition.
This sounds a lot more positive than the bloody-knife-wielding-bride cake that reality TV star Shanna Moakler had to commemorate her divorce from Travis Barker back in 2006. It’s also a little less bachelor/ette party than the ones Courtney Stodden and Robin Thicke threw for themselves in the wake of their public splits. Though those sound like a lot of fun — and certainly cathartic — Niesner’s friends might have the right idea in terms of ways to start healthy new beginnings.
“It’s a good thing to celebrate your new sense of freedom, autonomy, and identity,” Jane Greer, New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. But the people getting a divorce should take into account others’ feelings here as well, she cautions.
“So many times, couples share the same people in common, from friends to family,” she explains. “Your friends and family don’t necessarily have that same sense of freedom. They [may] want to maintain contact with your partner. They might feel uncomfortable being there and betraying the other person. You might feel betrayed if you invited them to celebrate with you and they decline the invitation. You have to really have a mindfulness around it in terms of who you’re inviting to the party, and what their choice to show up or not actually means.”
In the case of some really amicable divorces, this party could follow the route of Jack White and Karen Elson, who invited friends and family to a joint celebration of their divorce on their sixth anniversary. This is, unfortunately, a rare form of conscious uncoupling indeed.
More important than making the guests feel comfortable, the new divorced person should probably make sure that he or she is in the right frame of mind for this too. (And friends of divorced people, watch this episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta to see how a surprise divorce party can go really wrong.)
“If you’re feeling awkward … and you’re feeling a disconnect with your identity, then it’s too soon,” Greer says, though she suggests, if you want a divorce party, to throw one within a month of it becoming official. “If you’re going to make it a rite of passage, that’s when your new identity is still kind of fresh,” she says, “and you want that to be a marker to your friends.”
If some of that family you have in common includes children, Greer emphasizes the need for positivity. “I would be discreet about the nature the party, what it’s actually about, and maybe just say, ‘I’m having a party with my friends to celebrate this new chapter going forward now that your dad [or mom] and I are officially divorced.”
Instead of throwing darts at the ex’s face, the divorced person could use this party as an opportunity to discuss future goals, like travel plans and career moves.
Christine Gallagher, author of The Divorce Party Handbook, wrote in a column on HuffPost that the decision of whether to take the high or low road is the divorced person’s prerogative.
“We’ve heard of wedding dresses being burned at divorce parties, even the marital bed,” she wrote. “One caveat … exercise caution and safety and don’t let anyone get carried away with the process, no matter how exhilarating.”
As with any other type of gathering, there are professionals, like Gallagher, waiting to offer their expertise in planning divorce parties that are a little more OTT than Niesner’s. There are also plenty of businesses ready to offer divorce gift registries to aid in the new single life.
And for those who aren’t yet in the mood for a party, Greer suggests other options for marking this transition, either alone or with others. “Take a trip,” she says. “Join a new club. Make it something to note the new beginning.”
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