When you’re in the midst of a divorce, throwing a party might be the last thing on your mind, but the rise of the ‘divorce ceremony’ suggests that there’s some catharsis to be found in marking the end of difficult period of your life.
We take part in so many rituals and customs to do with the beginning or cementing of a relationship – engagements, hen parties and stag dos, wedding breakfasts, the renewing of vows, anniversaries – so it seems strange that the end of a relationship is rarely given the same treatment. This may partly due to the misconception that a divorce party is based on spite – a way of mocking or getting revenge on an ex – rather than to celebrate the good times, acknowledge support from friends and family, and set an intention to move on with dignity and positivity.
Divorce parties are becoming increasingly popular as a way of providing couples with closure, bringing family and friends together to support the divorcees, and to celebrate the start of a new chapter. These ceremonies come in many different guises, and can range from quiet, solemn rituals to joyous affairs full of laughter.
In Japan, one divorce-planning company provides a special ceremony in which the couple smash their wedding rings with a mallet, while the Jewish divorce process involves the exchange of a document called a get to finalise the separation. In 2000, a German bishop proposed that the church introduce religious services for separating couples, such as a ‘mass of lament’, and some French couples toss their wedding rings into the Seine as a symbol of the completion of divorce – a counterbalance to the many love-locks on the Pont des Arts. And, if you want to really make a spectacle of it, you could always follow in the footsteps of performance artist Marina Abramovic and her partner, who spent 90 days walking from either end of the Great Wall of China to meet in the middle, embrace, and symbolically part ways in 1988.
You may not want to go quite that far to commemorate your divorce, but giving yourself the chance to acknowledge and note the passing of a relationship can be a cathartic and sometimes deeply spiritual way of moving on, helping to leave any bitterness and anger behind, and look forward to the future.
Relate therapist Ammanda Major says that divorce parties can be immensely useful in enabling people to process the experience of separation in a positive way: “It shows you’re ready to embrace the next stage of your life and talk openly about what happened … [and] celebrate the fact that you took action to end something that wasn’t working for you.”
There’s no one way to throw a divorce party, either – just as you found your own special way to represent your relationship in your wedding – so too can you find a symbolic method of saying goodbye. Some, understandably, choose to keep their celebrations separate, toasting their hopes for the future with the family and friends who have supported them through a tough time, but increasing numbers of couples are choosing to come together one last time to finalise their separation. For example, Grayson Perry’s Rites of Passage documentary recently featured this collaborative divorce ceremony that involved a couple taking part in a series of symbolic rituals, witnessed by the same people who had attended their wedding:
Whatever you do to find closure on your divorce – whether it’s simply inviting a few friends round for a celebratory drink when you receive your Decree Absolute, or dissolving your vows in public at a special public event – the emphasis should always be on the positive and hopeful aspects of the transition. When it comes to the divorce process itself, as family lawyers we always encourage couples to work as collaboratively as possible and focus on the outcome rather than the past, and we can see how a ceremony to acknowledging the end of this difficult process could be a very worthwhile thing to do.
For more information on separation, divorce, and how to work cooperatively with your ex during the process, get in touch with our family law team at www.franceslindsay.co.uk. We can’t organise a divorce party for you, but we can help to take the weight off your shoulders in the meantime.