Frank (my husband) and I have a banter-heavy relationship, and we’re quite open with each other when it comes to, well, most everything.
So it is that we recently discussed whether or not we would have a divorce party if we ever separated. Happily, we’re not anticipating a divorce, but it got me thinking about all the divorce parties we’ve been to.
Since the start of 2012, he and I have attended six divorce parties. Yes, you heard me right: six divorce parties. They’re everywhere. And they can go horribly wrong.
In case you don’t know what divorce parties are, let me explain: divorce parties celebrate the close of relationships, just as marriages mark the opening of relationships. People who throw divorce parties understand that all that planning and coordinating they did enhanced the wedding day, and they want to make the start of their new, post-marriage life just as special. It’s also a simple way to show friends of the couple that they don’t have to choose the bride or groom’s side post-divorce.
I’ve learned a few things going to those six divorce parties, and I’d like to impart to you a bit of my wisdom. Granted, I have an outsider’s perspective, but I don’t think that objectivity is a bad thing.
Plus, I’m not making the decision for you. You’ve already made the decision to divorce, and hopefully you’ve managed an affordable divorce, but it’s time to figure out how to deal with the beginning of your post-divorce life.
Without further ado, here’s all my divorce party wisdom:
1. Be 100% Certain You Want a Divorce Party
Nothing is more cringe-inducing and awkward than one half of the divorce party guests of honor being obviously still in love and the other still painfully oblivious to that fact. I won’t name names, but it’s obvious to everyone—except her—that he’s still madly in love and only agreed to the divorce party in the hopes of remaining close.
If you’re still fiery and raging, you’re not ready for a divorce party. A divorce party is about moving on, and if you’re still seething, you haven’t moved on.
Talk it out. Sit down, be civil, and figure out what each of you wants.
Plus, you don’t need a giant party to show your friends the divorce is amicable. Continue hanging out with each other, and forgo any screaming matches; your friends will figure it out nearly as quickly as you will.
Maybe you’d rather celebrate your new beginnings separately. You split because you’re different, so celebrate those differences. If he wants to go cross-country on a motorcycle, and she wants to run a half-marathon, they should follow their hearts.
2. Location, Location, Location
You’re starting a new life—separately—meaning you’re probably going in different directions, so it can be tough to find a location that fits each of you and keeps your guests comfortable. Whatever you do, don’t try squeezing 15 on a small boat. It’s a wonderful idea to honor your still-shared hobbies as neutral ground, so to speak, but there’s a point after which it all becomes ridiculous. (In this case, I think we hit that around 10 people.)
It’s probably best to avoid a church altogether—blasphemy and all that.
The easiest option is simply to rent out a wedding hall and treat the whole divorce party as you treated the reception. It’s a new beginning, after all, and it makes things simple.
Another simple option, and one that won’t have you arguing over cost, is to simply go to the park. Simple and carefree—like the rest of your lives.
3. The Guest List
Once you’ve decided where to throw the party, it’s time to settle on the guest list.
Some people just aren’t ready to accept the idea of a divorce party. Don’t invite them. Or, if a considerable portion of your friends feel that way, it may be best to opt for a more subdued affair. You don’t need to send out invitations (that said anti-divorce-party friends may discover), just let your other friends know that you want to go out on such and such a night to celebrate your newly divorced status.
4. Divorce Party Activities
It’s in the activities themselves that you really need to be careful. They set the tone not just for your now non-relationship with your ex, but also in your view of future relationships. That this relationship didn’t work out doesn’t mean that others won’t either.
Don’t bitterly rage against the institution of marriage. Don’t complain about every little thing he did. Don’t moan about all the things she said. Don’t grumble that she never let you open up a donut shop. Don’t get trashed and reveal some rather intimate things we probably should never know about. We, your friends, did not come here in anger; we came here to help you celebrate your newfound freedom.
So make it a celebration. Make it fun. Eat some “Freedom Fries.” Our neighbors our huge camping enthusiasts, and when they threw their divorce party, our cul-de-sac got together for a campfire. Before we roasted marshmallows for s’mores, they took pieces of paper and wrote down all the things they were annoyed with, tired of, or otherwise generally sick of—all the things they wanted gone from their new lives—and then they burned them. No fanfare, and followed by s’mores. I’d say that’s a win-win situation if I’ve ever encountered one.
My favorite activity was a toast. It’s simple, but wishing each other good luck in the future does far more than anything else could to show us that you’re really ready to move on. It shows us that we can really rest easy because you’re both going to be fine. Besides, who doesn’t love a good toast?
5. The Divorce Party After-Party
It sounds like I’m being harsh when I tell you not to rage at your divorce party. It’s your party, so why shouldn’t you cry if you want to? I’m only suggesting that you not cry at the party proper. If it’s good-natured ribbing, that’s fine. It’s when you’re at each other’s throats that we start to worry and freak out.
The after-party is where all that raging and those tears are totally fine. By that point, the few acquaintances you’ve invited have gone, and it’s just your closest friends who will see you like this anyway. Anything goes at the after-party.
Anyway, I’m curious to hear if any of you have good divorce party stories. Any nightmares? Any perfect parties?
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Assistant Ed: Ben Neal/Ed: Bryonie Wise