Should you have a divorce party?

Timaree answers your questions about sex, love and relationships.

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Sex advice shouldn’t be syndicated. We wanted a local feel to ours so we’ve enlisted the sound advice of resident sex professor Timaree Schmit. Have a question about your love life that needs answers? Email her at asktimaree@philadelphiaweekly.com. | Image: Redlite photos

As soon as he finalizes his divorce, Eddie says he’s having a divorce party. 

“I know my bestie is throwing me one. I am looking forward to it, as a manifestation of freedom…and as closure.” 

The 35-year-old Philadelphian says he’s looking forward to the celebration, and generally having the process completed. 

“I have my daughter to think about, and the sooner my soon-to-be ex and I are split, the better it will be for all parties.”

Eddie is far from alone in planning an event to observe the dissolution of a marriage or long-term partnership. Many commemorate the transition, either through a solemn ceremony or raucous gathering. This isn’t new or uniquely American. There is precedent cross-culturally, with Jewish, Methodist, Unitarian, North African and Japanese divorce ceremony traditions having existed for years.    

If someone feels blindsided or devastated by a split, or has suffered harassment or abuse by their partner, the notion of ‘Adios Amigos’ cocktail specials may not carry the appropriate level of seriousness.

A decade ago, musician Jack White and his model wife Karen Elson issued a press release that they were throwing a “positive swing bang humdinger” of a divorce party in Nashville with “dancing, photos, memories, and drinks with alcohol in them.” Famous law student Kim Kardashian is reportedly planning a huge fete on a private island to celebrate her split from rapper Kanye West.

Pinterest will help you design the aesthetic with a shiny Divorced AF cake topper, “Olive Better Without You” garnish decoration, or Happy Trails lip balm party favor. Oprah has published a list of “fun activities” for divorce parties that include: vision boards, karaoke and “ditch the dress” bonfires. 

Even Howl at the Moon, noted hot mess express franchise, advertises their hosting services. “With a Philadelphia divorce party at Howl at the Moon, you have so many reasons to get all excited!” they cheer on their website, “Enjoy a cocktail or beer or share one of our 86 oz. buckets with the whole gang. They come in ten amazing flavors!”

But is this a good idea? Experts have expressed a variety of opinions. For some, this kind of event simply marks a point of transition, like a baptism, birthday, graduation or funeral as divorcees can process the experience through ritual with loved ones. Christine Gallagher, author of Divorce Party Planner – and who is credited with launching the trend – says that it’s a great way to get catharsis and move forward. These parties stand in stark contrast to the unhealthy idea that a romantic relationship must end in death or be considered “a failure.” 

For others, a divorce party can be a cruel, calculating act to divide the loyalties of a former couple’s social network. If someone feels blindsided or devastated by a split, or has suffered harassment or abuse by their partner, the notion of “Adios Amigos” cocktail specials may not carry the appropriate level of seriousness.  

“When my wife left my daughter and I the marriage was over. Celebrating wasn’t ever on the agenda,” says Frank, resident of the Philly suburbs. 

“The actual divorce was anticlimactic. The crying and hurt were done with by the time the paperwork was finalized. Never been to a divorce party. If a person wants or needs it they should do it, but I don’t find it a [celebrate-able] event.”

Pinterest will help you design the aesthetic with a shiny Divorced AF cake topper, ‘Olive Better Without You’ garnish decoration, or Happy Trails lip balm party favor.

Philly musician James had planned on doing a divorce-themed show to celebrate his split. 

“I wanted it to be a way to process this painful time with folks who had been through it, and [I] wanted a way of expressing those moments of power/vulnerability/sadness.” 

But the legal process was so agonizing and protracted that by the time the paperwork was completed, he says, “For me, finally getting to delete and block the number was enough of a celebration for me.”

The situation was similar for Philly resident Victoria. 

“I thought about doing a divorce party, but he dragged it out so long,” she explains, “It was a grueling process, and I was tired and relieved when it was finally over and done with. I had begun moving on with my life long before that point so to me it was just one less thing I had to think about anymore.”

Former Philly denizen Mick says, “I’ve had a few come through bars I’ve tended. In theory I think it’s awesome and hilarious, but in my experience they either go really dark or get wildly out of hand.”

There’s also a darkly capitalist side to these events that’s worth noting. Forum Novelties – the wholesaler of Divorced Diva merch – “realized that boas and tiaras they had been selling to penis-straw-sipping bachelorettes would instantly find a new market when relabeled ‘Divorced Diva.’”

Perhaps the key is the intention behind the event. In amicable splits, couples can hold collaborative events that encourage loved ones to remain cordial and not take sides. For those who are financially depleted from a divorce, there may be a need for another gift registry to restock the kitchen. And more than ever, we recognize the need to gather together our support systems, simply for a good old time. 

Have a question for Timaree? Send an email to asktimaree@philadelphiaweekly.com.

  • Timaree Schmit Headshot

    Timaree Schmit is basically an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, but in the shape of a person. She has a PhD in Human Sexuality Education and years of experience in community organizing, performance art, and finding the extra weird pockets of Philly.

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