Bubbling and overflowing glasses of champagne clink together, while confetti covers the floor like a blanket. This is the result of weeks of planning. Family and friends are grinning from ear to ear as you celebrate.
No, it’s not a wedding reception. It’s actually a divorce party, held to commemorate the end of a legal marriage.
The occasion itself is described as being similar to a hens or bucks night – you go out with friends, have more drinks than Australian health guidelines would recommend, and enjoy a big night out. But there’s no wedding gown or bridal waltz in sight.
For some, a divorce is worth celebrating.
Single mother Carmelina Pieri says she still thinks fondly of her ex-husband fondly and shares the parenting duties with him, but is glad she had a divorce party.
Pieri says life doesn’t always go to plan.
“Like any woman, I had been dreaming of the day [her wedding] since I could remember,” she says.
“But, as time went on, I began to lose sight of who I was as a person. I wasn’t Carmelina, I was married.”
Pieri says she wanted a divorce party to after going through some big changes.
“I wanted to let everybody know that I was back, I was the old Carmelina again,” she says.
“I was able to do the things I wanted, not necessarily because I couldn’t before, but because I had my own life and own interests before I was married. During my marriage I did not feel free to be myself.”
Pieri says many people still see divorce as a bad thing, but it’s not always the case.
“I think everybody has their own identity before they were married. My divorce party was all about celebrating the return of that identity,” she says.
These days, you can’t switch on the television or open a glossy magazine without reading or hearing the statistics about divorce.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 46,498 couples divorced in Australia in 2014, while 121,197 couples got married. The average time from marriage to divorce was 12 years.
The ABS also reported the median age at divorce was 45.2 for males and 42.5 for females, a slight increase from 2013.
Type the words “divorce party” into Google and you will be hit with plenty of inspiration – cake, games, decorations, even etiquette. Also readily available are “just divorced” sashes, “I’m free” balloons and “it’s over – let’s party” serviettes.
Lynette Wood is responsible for producing some of these items, as the owner of Divorce Party Shop Online Perth.
Wood says she ended her marriage in 2008 and wanted to celebrate her new-found life.
“I found myself not really knowing how I should feel as I had friends in similar situations who seemed sad and lonely. But I felt relief and a sense of ‘wow, look at me’,” she says.
“I am standing on my own feet and actually doing better than I ever did for the whole time I was in a marriage.
“Nothing was available to help me with my endeavour, so the search began to find something to help me and that was when Divorce Party Shop became a reality.”
Wood says a divorce party might not be for everyone, but the sole purpose of her business is to encourage people to celebrate a new beginning.
“It appears divorce parties are indeed becoming popular. I think people are realising it’s no longer taboo to start again and move on with their lives after the breakup of a marriage,” she says.
Wood notes the majority of her clientele are female, which is no surprise given that 32.5 per cent of divorce applicants in 2014 were women, while 26 per cent were men.
And business is booming, both locally and globally.
Author and divorce party planner Christine Gallagher is started her own divorce party planning business in Los Angeles after seeing the huge demand.
She has her own website, and has published book titled The Divorce Party Handbook.
“I wrote a book on how to throw a divorce party and I was getting many interviews on radio. People started asking if there was a party planner who handled such events, so we decided to start one here in LA,” she says.
Gallagher has never been divorced, but notes she has seen a big increase in clientele over the past few years, including celebrities.
“Divorce is tough and until recently was very much in the shadows. A divorce party provides a ritual event that people need when going through a big life change,” she says.
“We have rituals for all the other significant events in life, like births, marriages, graduations and even deaths. Why not divorce?
“The event [divorce parties] enables people to mark the occasion surrounded by family and friends. It can be helpful and healing.”
Broadening Horizons Counselling director and relationship counsellor Frances Day says she wouldn’t promote the idea of a party specifically to celebrate a divorce.
“Feedback from friends or family describes it more as a celebration of the end of a struggle,” she says.
Day says her job is to help people deal with the emotional aspects of divorce, but understands why people choose to celebrate the life event.
“I wouldn’t discourage a person from having a party to acknowledge their courage to take action after a long period of fear to do so,” she says.
“A person who closes that chapter of their life with a party is more likely to start a new style of relationship, which is often more positive than continuing on with the struggle that caused them to get divorced.”
Whether it is the joy in cutting a cake with an icing figurine of a decapitated former partner, or genuinely celebrating a new-found freedom, divorce parties are here to stay.