How to Celebrate Your Divorce with a Divorce Party
When I got divorced, the process moved surprisingly quickly. It was an amicable split, for the most part, so the timeline was only dictated by how quickly the paperwork could move through the legal system. Like many divorces, there was a whirlwind of emotions, and the speed of the process left me little time to process my feelings before the finalized paperwork was in my hands.
It made the end of the relationship feel strangely underwhelming. Twelve years together, eight years married … and all I had to show for it was a postcard in the mail telling me the documents were signed.
It didn’t feel right, so I made an impulsive decision.
Plan a divorce party!
I decided to throw myself a divorce party. And I decided to do it right now. With just a few hours’ notice, I made a Facebook post telling friends I’d be at a local strip club that night, and they should join me if they could. Ultimately, about six people showed up that evening – all men. A couple were close friends, and a few more were casual acquaintances (whom I suspect were in it more for the strip club than to support me). It was an odd way to mark the end of my marriage, but it felt satisfying to be doing something.
If I had a do-over, just about all of it would be different. As is too often the case when I’m writing or teaching, I don’t suggest people follow my example. Rather, I encourage them to learn from my mistakes.
What is a divorce party?
Don’t make the mistake I made: If you want people to show up, you need to give them enough notice! In general, it’s good etiquette to give local people at least two or three weeks' notice. Try to give long-distance friends at least six weeks’ notice to make travel plans.
In terms of your guest list, here’s another mistake of mine to avoid: Don’t cast too wide a net. A divorce party is an ideal chance for the people closest to you to show their support. It can get awkward if the room is full of casual acquaintances or plus-ones you’ve never met.
Ideally, a divorce party is a chance to set the tone for what’s next—and that can be a guidepost for your party-planning decisions.
Should you have a divorce party during or after it’s finalized?
Divorce isn’t just a big deal for the people leaving the marriage. It’s also jarring for friends and family, especially if children are involved. So make sure everyone has time to process their feelings before they’re asked to throw confetti and eat divorce cake.
Unlike a birthday party, a divorce party need not be attached to a particular date. It’s not about when paperwork is filed or finalized. Instead, it’s about emotional separation and the intention to move forward. And that could be weeks or even months after the official proceedings are complete.
Divorce party dos and don’ts
To make sure everyone has a good time, there are some guidelines you should follow:
- Do make sure the guest of honor wants a divorce party! This is not the right time for a surprise.
- Do choose the right venue for the event (unlike me). Places that are too loud or crowded make it impossible to hold a conversation and might not set the right vibe.
- Don’t let close friends and family find out about your divorce through a party announcement. Make sure everyone important to you hears your news directly.
- Don’t let the party become an ex-bashing event. This is a chance to celebrate your future, not to focus on negativity from the past. The event should focus on the positive.
Divorce party activities
Because a divorce party is about the future, consider activities that allow you to share your plans, dreams, and goals with the attendees. After all, these are the people who have been rooting for you and who will support you through your new adventures.
Create a post-divorce life vision board
Bring pictures or other signifiers for what you want your future to look like, and ask guests to bring something that symbolizes their hopes for you, too. Then, find clever ways to display them around the space. You can use clothespins to hang them overhead or prep a wall with crisscrossed ribbon to tuck things into.
Create one central piece of art
Paint or print something on a large canvas that feels meaningful to you – and has plenty of open space. Display it at the party alongside a selection of permanent markers or paint pens. Over the course of the event, guests can add something to the canvas that builds on the theme or that symbolizes your friendship in some way.
Create lots of small just-for-you art
The art theme can also work for people who don’t want to share. Rather than collaborating on one large piece, you can create multiple works of art over the evening. This is especially nice if you find yourself with bare walls after your stuff has been divided. It’s also a great way to fill your space with reminders of how much love you still have in your life.
Share your post-divorce intentions
Well-wishes aren’t only for the artistic or craft-minded. At a small party, you can go around in a circle giving everyone a chance to share something they hope for the guest of honor’s future. At a larger event, consider providing pens and notepaper so people can write their hopes and goals down. They can then be placed in a keepsake jar or box to read later … or they could be attached to a wish tree so everyone can read them.
Perform a letting-go ritual
To move forward, it can help to be clear about what you’re leaving behind. You can do this by writing down the things you’re releasing on pieces of paper or by using objects that hold meaning for you.
For example, you could be letting go of fear, shame, or the belief you don’t deserve happiness. The pieces of paper can be burned— safely. (Although firefighters showing up at your divorce party might make a good story, you probably don’t want that.) Or, you could avoid the fire risk and bury the pieces of paper. Objects could also be buried, too—or, if they’re something you want to keep, you could use the ritual to cleanse them with water or salt.
Go on an adventure
What better way to remind yourself that more adventures are on the way than to include one in your divorce party? If you decide to celebrate with a small group, consider trying something you’ve never done before. It could be as wild as skydiving or climbing a mountain or as mild as a cooking class or a trip to a petting zoo. What’s important is that you have fun with it!
Final thoughts on divorce parties
Unlike birthday and holiday parties that come around every year, a divorce party is (perhaps) a once-in-a-lifetime event. That means it should be something special that has been thoughtfully planned to meet the needs of the moment.
A divorce party is an opportunity to reclaim your independence and make decisions based entirely on your own desires and preferences. Choose your favorite foods, your favorite cake, and your favorite music. Most importantly, a divorce party is the opening gala for the rest of your life. You never know how amazing your new life will be!