Divorce

Divorce Party Etiquette

Divorce Parties are part of our culture now. While some people still think they're in bad taste, many embrace them as a valuable ritual where friends and family can help a divorcing person through a difficult life change.
02/04/2016 02:42pm ET | Updated February 2, 2017

Divorce Parties are part of our culture now. While some people still think they're in bad taste, many embrace them as a valuable ritual where friends and family can help a divorcing person through a difficult life change.

My new book The Divorce Party Handbook: How to Throw an Unforgettable Divorce Party When "Divorce Do Us Part" is packed with ideas for menus, games, invitations, gifts and entertainment -- everything to make the Divorce Party a momentous occasion. It also includes a chapter on Divorce Party Etiquette. Here is a sample:

Is it okay to throw your own Divorce Party?

Absolutely. In fact it might be just what the doctor ordered, a way to mark the end of a difficult and emotional time and the beginning of the rest of your life. But be sure and ask good friends to chip in and help just as you probably did when you got hitched.

I'm having a Divorce Party and would like to invite everyone who was a guest at our wedding. Is this a good idea?

There's a certain symmetry to the notion but... it's a bad idea. Keep your guest list to close friends and relatives who will get it. Not everyone is comfortable attending this kind of event, especially the old aunties, with a few exceptions.

I'd like to have my Divorce Party the day after my divorce is final. My sister thinks it's too soon and that I should have a cooling off period first.

There are no hard and fast rules on scheduling. You should have your party when you feel you want and need it. Some people even do it during the divorce proceedings -- it can be a refreshing interlude, especially if it's tough going. Others wait till all the dust is settled. Go with your instincts, and tell sis thanks but you can make your own decisions.

If a Divorce Party is to take place at a restaurant, who should pay? The host? Or should each person pay for themselves?

It's your choice how you want to handle it. If you're hosting, you pay. If you're simply arranging for everyone to get together, each person pays individually. You can spell it out in the way you word the invitation. "I am throwing..." is very different to "Why don't we all get together and..."

Is the Divorce Party a good time to share juicy gossip about the ex?

Be careful with this. Beneath the surface of most divorces there is a great deal of hurt and pain. You don't want to trigger any regressive emotions that can bring the party girl or guy down. Even when we are done with a relationship, hearing that the ex is schtupping someone new can cause twinges of jealousy, anger or regret. Use your judgment and if you have any doubts, hold the gossip for another time when you can be sure its impact can be contained.

You just met a fabulous new person and are now a guest at a Divorce Party. Is this a good time to talk about your new love interest?

No. The last thing a newly single person needs to hear is how a pal is reveling in the bliss of love or passion. Keep the focus on them and their journey onward to find new loves.

I'm planning a surprise Divorce Party for my brother? Is this a good idea?

It depends on your brother's temperament and his current state of mind. It could be just what he needs. Or it could backfire and be a real downer. Talk it over with a guy friend of his and get a read on the situation. Surprise parties aren't always welcome.

Who should and shouldn't host a Divorce Party?

Divorce Parties can be hosted by anyone -- the newly divorced person, their friends, their family, whoever. The only circumstance that seems distasteful might be if a toxic spouse whose behavior destroyed a marriage threw a divorce celebration. That might be hard to stomach.

I'm planning a Divorce Party and have invited my sister who is marrying a month later. She thinks I shouldn't have the party so close to her wedding.

That's your decision, not hers. One door closes and another one opens. Let her know nicely that your event will by no means cast a shadow over hers and that you will attend her wedding with the appropriate spirit and optimism. Tell her you won't be offended if she is not in the mood to attend your party and leave it at that.

My husband is using my Divorce Party plans as an indication of my bad character in our divorce proceedings. Do you think I should postpone the party till after the court date?

I would ignore it and carry on with your plans. Most judges will not care a hoot. Some might even empathize. Obviously you and your husband are not on the same wavelength -- which is exactly why you're having a Divorce Party, n'est ce pas?

I'd like to ask my four onetime bridesmaids to host a Divorce Party for me. Sort of like life coming full circle. What do you think?

Bad idea. No one should be asked to host a party. Throw it yourself if no one offers.

My pals are organizing a Divorce Party and they asked me about shower gifts. I'm inclined to skip the gifts and have everyone chip in to buy twenty tons of fresh manure to be dumped in my ex's driveway. Is this okay?

Revenge is sweet. But I'd say skip the momentary thrill of the manure dump and use this occasion for more positive impulses... like going for the gifts. Select things your ex would never have appreciated and enjoy them.

I'm dying to have a Divorce Party but I don't want to spend a lot of money. How can I do it?

Concentrate on the fun aspects that cost nothing like the games, the music and a good bunch of pals who'll have a great time together. You can eat and drink cheaply. For example, go to a discount food warehouse and buy a case of wine and a stack of frozen pizzas. Or ask each guest to kick in $25 and splurge on champagne and trays of sushi.

I'm having a Divorce Party and my friends told me they are planning on having a dartboard set up with my ex's face as the bullseye. As each guest throws a dart, she or he can say what they dislike about him. This makes me uncomfortable.

Don't do anything that doesn't feel right. Tell your friends you don't want to trash your ex at the party. Also, you may want to rehash the breakup or answer questions. It's your party and you get to choose.

Should the ex ever be invited?

Only under very rare circumstances would an ex be welcome. The relationship has to have evolved to a cordial friendship. It can be a way of letting everyone know that the split is amicable and no one should feel the need to choose one friendship over the other.

Is it okay to burn the ex's belongings at the party?

Burning things is very primitive and for many very satisfying. It's a form of simple therapy, carefully tossing things into the flames and watching them be consumed and obliterated. This can also be very empowering. We've heard of wedding dresses being burned at divorce parties, even the marital bed. One caveat... exercise caution and safety and don't let anyone get carried away with the process, no matter how exhilarating. Always burn in a safe and legal zone.

This blogger has a psychotherapy practice in Los Angeles. To make an appointment with Christine, contact chris@talktherapynow.com

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