Divorce ceremonies for healing … maybe a toaster
By Elizabeth Bougerol
Charlotte Eulette donned a shiny cocktail dress for her divorce celebration to reflect her goal to “shine on.”
(LifeWire) — Charlotte Eulette of Montclair, New Jersey, ceremoniously reclaimed her maiden name and slipped a ring from her mother on her newly bare wedding ring finger.
Cathryn Michon hit the Los Angeles restaurant Mr. Chow with some friends who’d brought divorce gifts.
In Las Vegas, reality-show regular Shanna Moakler served a three-tiered gateau — complete with knife-wielding-bride cake topper (and matching dead groom) — to attendees after her (first) split from Travis Barker.
If just discussing divorce in public seemed taboo a few years ago, the growing trend of divorce celebrations is helping lessen the stigma surrounding the end of marriage.
“Yes, it’s sad and it’s painful, but it’s not failure,” says Christine Gallagher, the owner of Los Angeles event company The Divorce Party Planner and the author of a book by the same name. “It’s part of life, and yet it’s the only major event for which we have no ritual.
“A celebration communicates that divorce is OK — life-affirming, even.”
Michon, 38, agrees. “It’s like an Irish wake. Just because there’s been a death doesn’t mean you can’t have food and drink, acknowledge the past and hope good things for the future. It’s about closure.”
Bearing witness, wedding-style
“At a wedding, you gather friends and family around and say, ‘Support us on this journey,’” says Eulette, 49, whose 2003 post-split bash was attended by the same klatch of far-flung friends and relatives as her wedding. “A divorce ceremony is a way to gather them around and say, ‘I’m moving on. Please support me.’”
And that support, says Michon, is also practical in nature. “If you split up, someone’s getting the blender and someone’s not,” she says. “My own celebration was a way for my friends to say, ‘We love you no matter what, and by the way, here are a few appliances you’re missing.’
“Believe me, a toaster means a lot more when your heart’s broken than on your wedding day,” says Michon, a writer, who recently organized a divorce registry at Target for another friend. “Especially if you’re out thousands of dollars in legal fees.”
Divorce parties: One size doesn’t fit all
Just as no two weddings are alike, divorcees are seeking out (or creating from scratch) marriage-ending markers that resonate with them.
In Britain, the Great Northern Firework Company offers a divorce-package fireworks display. Godammo.com will melt and mold your wedding ring into a (gunpowder-free) bullet, and WeddingRingCoffin.com sells just that: a practical, dignified way to bury your dead marriage’s hardware.
“Burning is big,” says Gallagher, who’s seen everything from wedding dresses to a husband’s trophy deer head go up in flames at divorce celebrations organized by her event-planning outfit. The parties — two or three per month — serve up signature cocktails with names like the So Long and the Sucker, split-themed soundtracks (“Hit the Road, Jack” and “I Will Survive” are popular) and dartboards adorned with the ex’s face.
“A divorce party makes more sense than a bachelor party,” says Marc Tadros of Montreal V.I.P., whose luxury divorce getaways have drawn customers, about 20 percent of them female, from as far away as Ireland and Germany. “It’s a good time to blow off steam, work on your social networking skills.”
Focusing on the future
“Having six or 10 martinis may work for some people, but mine wasn’t an ex-bashing ceremony,” says Joann Lane, 50, a wedding officiant whose party took place five years after the divorce and was attended by the couple’s four sons, along with her current and former boyfriends.
“I wanted to acknowledge the good that came out of the marriage, and let go of the anguish.”
In that spirit, Eulette’s foundation (and her full-time job) Celebrants USA, which is devoted to celebrating life’s milestones, organizes 10 to 15 divorce events each year to help people craft rituals that have meaning for them. One of Eulette’s clients celebrated his divorce by gluing back together a broken glass, in a reversal of the Jewish tradition of smashing a glass at the end of the wedding ceremony.
“It’s not a hullabaloo; it’s about healing and transition,” Eulette says. “And everyone has their own story in a divorce — there’s no blueprint for moving forward like there is with marriage.”
Ottawa wellness counselor Lucy MacDonald cautions divorcées to consider their motives in hosting a celebration, and not to overlook the key to emotional recovery after divorce: forgiveness, of oneself and one’s ex.
“If you’re feeling bitter, angry or antagonistic, a divorce party may bring out the worst in you,” warns MacDonald. “But if you’ve accepted your divorce as the next step in your growth as a person, your party is a signal to everyone that you’re OK and looking to the future.”