Divorce Parties Are the Hot New Invite

From a Wall Street Journal story by Lane Florsheim headlined “Divorce Parties Are the Hot New Invite. ‘It Sort of Ended Up as a Really Fun Funeral.”:

After Brandi Stellers finalized her divorce, she invited close friends to a soiree. She mixed signature cocktails, hung a “Bye Felicia” banner and handed out fake rose petals to toss in the air.

Party decorations included a photo of a pair of penguins, torn down the middle.

“I ripped the penguins in half because penguins are monogamous birds who are supposed to mate for life,” she says. “Well, I’m not your penguin anymore.”

The newly uncoupled are throwing themselves blowout bashes to mark their liberation from unhappy marriages, almost like reverse bachelorette parties. “I wanted to celebrate not a divorce, but a new chapter, with people whom I love who want the best for me,” says Stellers, who works at a cloud-computing company in Columbus, Ohio.

For most of history, divorce hasn’t been an event touted to the world. Now, a culture shift is under way. The U.S. divorce rate has been dipping, but those who get them feel freer to trumpet their breakups. The number of American adults who consider divorce to be morally acceptable has hit historic highs, according to Gallup polls.

“Divorce used to be something to be ashamed of due to societal pressures and stereotypes,” says Nicole Sodoma, a divorce lawyer who wrote the book “Please Don’t Say You’re Sorry” about the topic. “But today people have really decided to nip that societal shame and instead embrace being divorced as another stage of life that some of us experience.”

On Etsy and Amazon, brands sell splitsville swag, including “End of an Error” sashes, “Thank U Next” rose-gold foil balloons, and “I do. I did. I’m done” T-shirts. On Pinterest, the online platform for sharing creative ideas, “search trends show that people are gaining a new perspective of divorce,” says Swasti Sarna, Global Director of Data Insights at Pinterest.

Pinterest searches for “divorce-party games” surged 80%, and searches for “divorce cakes” rose 50% in June 2022 from a year earlier. There were also jumps in searches for divorce-party decorating ideas (35%) and for “divorce gifts” (30%), according to Pinterest.

“It was just this feeling of, I’m not ashamed of this,” says Nadine Adamson, a real-estate broker in Manhattan and Brooklyn who had a divorce party. “I think being married for more than 10 years in New York—I was married for 12—is a huge success.”

Adamson had friends from Los Angeles fly to New York and they booked the hotel suite where she had stayed when she got married. “It felt like closure in a really beautiful way to be in the same hotel with the same view,” she says.

The four of them burned sage in the suite, to rid it of negative vibes, filled the place with balloons, dined out and then had a sleepover.

Adamson also continues to post on Instagram with the hashtag #divorceparty, not because she keeps throwing them, but as a way to highlight her new life, such as upgrading her brownstone with a cozy wood-burning fireplace.

“I guess divorce parties are a thing?” a Reddit user wrote a few months ago in a post that drew nearly 4,000 comments. The poster included a photo of an invitation from a divorcing couple that was throwing a joint party. “Plus ones are welcome—ours will be there!” it said.

Kris Marks, a mental-health facilitator in Alberta, Canada, says he initially felt conflicted when a friend invited him to celebrate a divorce. Marks was also friends with the ex-husband, and didn’t think he knew about the party.

“I had so many thoughts, like, should we be celebrating the end of a commitment?” Marks says. “I went back and forth and I came to the conclusion that yes, the institution of marriage is what it is, but if you’re choosing to move on from it, that’s a hard thing to do and a fresh start should be celebrated. I was kind of all for it.”

His friend, who was married for 12 years, threw a potluck dinner and then the group went out for a night on the town. “It was me and another guy and maybe 10 women and it was like being a fly on the wall at a bachelorette party,” he says. Marks bought his friend a month of Bumble Premium as a present.

Some businesses cater to newly uncoupled men. Stripe Street Studio, a design firm founded in 2020, for instance, specializes in helping divorced and single men set up homes. On Pinterest, searches for the now popular catchphrase “divorced dad aesthetic” were up nearly 300% in June from a year earlier, the company says.

Anecdotally, though, more women than men are holding outright divorce bashes.

“As a guy, we don’t call it a divorce party, we call it ‘Let’s go for drinks,” reasons Marks. “We just cope differently.”

One can now find registry sites that help divorcées restock—since only one half of the couple gets the pasta maker, the spice rack or the Le Creuset cookware.

After Olivia Dreizen Howell separated in 2019, she stayed in the marital residence, which was suddenly much emptier. “Half of my stuff was gone,” she says, and other items were emotionally charged belongings from her wedding registry.

So she and her sister Jenny Dreizen founded the website Fresh Starts in 2021 for people going through the same experience.

The company helps the newly unwed set up gift registries to restock specific rooms in their new homes. The most popular registry items are for kitchens and bathrooms. They also offer a network of experts, such as real-estate agents, forgiveness coaches, and a divorce doula who helps plan divorce parties.

Lizzie Post, the co-author of “Emily Post Etiquette: The Centennial Edition,” says the Emily Post Institute doesn’t consider either divorce parties or post-divorce registries appropriate as of yet.

“Getting together with your friends after finalizing a divorce and finding a way to feel good about closing that chapter is a beautifully supportive thing,” she says. “I think calling it a divorce party feels a bit tactless.”

Allison McWhite, a legal assistant in New York, says planning her own divorce party ushered in a sense of control. “It seemed for a long time that something was happening to me, charging at me, as opposed to me handling it,” she says.

She threw her celebration at a friend’s apartment, where music videos were projected onto a wall, black balloons littered the floor and candlesticks dripped wax onto the empty wine bottles that held them. A white cake proclaimed “Just Divorced” in cherry-red icing. McWhite wore a lacy sheer black dress, red lipstick and a fur coat in keeping with the party dress code of 1950s divorcée chic. (Think Marilyn Monroe’s 1954 divorce from Joe DiMaggio in which she famously wore a little black dress, pumps and white gloves to the courthouse.)

Guests danced into the wee hours and toasted the start of her new life.

“It sort of ended up as a really fun funeral,” McWhite says.

For some divorcées, trying to celebrate can backfire and feel like a reminder of the loss.

“When you get divorced, you kind of lose half your friends,” says Ayesha Vardag, a divorce lawyer in London whose friends encouraged her to have a party after her own divorce. At their insistence, she booked a nice room above a pub, where she says there was loud music and “a bit of dancing, but not enough, as there really weren’t enough people.”

“It was just a huge pressure to be fun,” she says. “Afterward, I felt I should just allow myself to be really quite upset and come out of that slowly.”

Travel blogger Maja Proescholdt says her divorce process, done without lawyers, was lengthy enough that by the time the paperwork was done, much of her grief had settled and she was ready for a party.

Her sister supplied a crown and a “Finally Divorced” sash. The group went out dancing, where the club’s DJ called out, “Let’s have it for Maja’s divorce party!”

“That was a top life moment for me,” she says.

Lane Florsheim is a reporter covering fashion, culture, wellness and other lifestyle topics on The Wall Street Journal’s Style News desk in New York.

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