Divorce Parties Turn the End of Marriage Into a Celebration for Moms
February 5, 2019
In the pilot of Amazon Video's series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which takes place in late 1950s New York City, the lead character Midge quickly learns that her new identity as a divorced mom of two is far from socially acceptable to her friends, family members, and society as a whole. The Emmy-winning show highlights how everyone in her inner circle reacts with horror, shame, and confusion when she explains that she's dissolving her marriage. After all, in 1958, only 8.9% of couples identified as divorced, according to data from National Vital Statistics System.
Despite the backlash they faced at the time, history would prove couples like Midge and her ex Joel to be trailblazers. When laws began to change in the 1970s, divorce rates began to take off, and today, almost half of marriages end up legally dissolved. That oft-repeated statistic has made it possible for women to not only own the process of ending their marriages but to celebrate it openly by throwing divorce parties.
Divorce Parties Are on the Rise
Look no further than social media for proof. Tens of thousands of boards on Pinterest have been created to plan divorce parties. On Instagram, the "#divorceparty" hashtag pulls up a bevy of colorful, joyful photos and videos documenting the trend. As Katie Bingham-Smith writes on Scary Mommy, "Divorce parties are a thing, and women are signing their papers, then turning around and booking caterers, DJs, and celebrating the fact they are about to start the second chapter in their lives."
What Experts Are Saying
Mental health care providers are on-board with the growing trend. Elizabeth Cohen, PhD, a clinical psychologist aims to "help people piece together their own emotional recovery program after the difficult task of filing and finalizing a divorce." She says the process of divorce is followed by an "afterglow," marked by the "potential to live more passionately and in greater alignment with their deepest values because, not in spite, of their divorce."
Divorce parties serve as one way to welcome this new chapter, Cohen notes. "Divorce is in opportunity to learn, heal, and grow," she says. "It could be seen as a matriculation rather than an ending for many people."
Tara Eisenhard, a divorce coach, mediator, and author of The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes, agrees, sharing that she encourages her clients to do something—whether it's "a party or a ceremony of some sort"—to mark the occasion. "Generally speaking, our society does not have a structure or ritual around divorce, the way we do for birthdays, graduations, retirement, and death," she tells Parents.com. "Creating an event helps those going through it to honor what was and look forward to a new beginning while feeling supported by family and friends."
What a Divorce Party Looks Like
The label "divorce party" may bring to mind visions of the Vegas strip (or local equivalents), tons of alcohol and/or whatever form of debauchery appeals to the ex-wife. But there's really no one-size-fits-all event plan. "Celebrations can take place anywhere and could be large or small," Eisenhard explains. "They can involve both partners and the children, or just mom and her girlfriends."
Either way, she advises parents to "keep celebrations clean and positive." In other words, bear in mind that "hating is healing." "Children can become quite uncomfortable if they find out their mom and her friends are throwing darts at pictures of their father," Eisenhard says. "Celebrations are most helpful when they focus on the love and endurance of a family, and set the stage for a happy new beginning."
Alli Scott, a mom from Massachusetts recently helped throw a divorce cocktail hour for a dear friend. "[It was at] a local spot she loved with about 10 of us," Scott says. "We surprised her with a cake that she cut, and we all ate. It was a low key affair with each of us chipping in to cover the costs of us toasting her to celebrate the closing of a very long and hard chapter in her life."
For Shermain Jeremy, a New York mom of two and founder of 4MomsLikeMe.com, a divorce party was her way of patting herself on the back after surviving "so much trauma." She also wanted to thank her "sister tribe," the women in her life. "Without their love, support, kind words, offers to help babysit and so much more I don't think I would have made it through with all my senses in tact," Jeremy tells Parents.com.
Jeremy's party was held in a private section of a popular restaurant in Harlem, New York, featured personalized cupcakes and favors like blinged-out pens that said, "I love you my sister." Jeremy recalls, "It was a night filled with great friends, great drinks, great food, lots of laughs, and, most importantly, lots of love."
After ending her marriage, Jessica Smith, a mom from Marion, Iowa, opted for a low-key karaoke night at a bar. Both girlfriends and family members were on the guest list, and the night was planned by Smith's mom. "It felt like I could finally move on with my life," Smith shares. "For some reason, the divorce didn't feel real until I was at the party celebrating."
Smith's experience appears to be one shared by many moms who've taken a proud, celebratory approach to ending their marriages. Sure, it can serve as a reality check on the past and the present, but perhaps more importantly, a divorce party helps to usher in the future and a more fulfilling, joyful chapter to come.