From celebratory to solemn, events marking divorce, breakup evolving

A growing trend toward divorce celebrations and ceremonies is helping dissolve the shame surrounding the end of “till death do us part.”
A growing trend toward divorce celebrations and ceremonies is helping dissolve the shame surrounding the end of “till death do us part.”

In an age when celebrities are married and casually divorced within months, regular folks still deal with the stigma surrounding divorce.

Many divorced people battle the situation in private because discussing the topic in public can be taboo and painful.

But a growing trend toward divorce celebrations and ceremonies is helping dissolve the shame surrounding the end of “till death do us part.”

“The reality is, people get divorced,” said Bill Roman, a licensed professional counselor in the Toledo area. “A divorce party is kind of an emotional release.”

Much like a birthday party, bar mitzvah, or wedding, divorce ceremonies are rituals that mark a significant life transition, said Mr. Roman, owner of Crucible Life Resources in Toledo.

“Rituals are an important part of life. They mark transition in our lives,” he said. “Whether it’s a ceremony, party, or burning the marriage license, it’s a way to say ‘I’m done with that.’”

Just as no two weddings are the same, divorce celebrations and ceremonies take on many different tones and purposes, with divorced people seeking out marriage-ending markers that resonate with them.

Some parties serve as an announcement of a person’s newly single status and are similar to bachelor and bachelorette parties and involve facetious items such as wedding ring coffins and just-divorced banners.

Reality show star Shanna Moakler celebrated her first split from musician Travis Barker with an infamous event in Las Vegas with a wedding-like cake, topped with a knife-wielding bride and dead groom.

Most ceremonies are attended by the same guests who watched the “I do’s,” and just like at the wedding, they act as an organized support group.

Others are more solemn. Divorcing parties sometimes gather with family and/or friends to announce their split in an event that can be deeply personal and spiritual. Such ceremonies are intended to help the split couple and their families move past disappointment, anger, and hurt.

Recently, a group of local women gathered with Karen Kiemnec, an accredited journey practitioner, which is a type of self-help specialist, for an event she calls a vow release ceremony.

The women, most of whom were divorced, divorcing, or had recently ended a long-term relationship, used flash paper to write vows and broken promises that they wanted to release, including marriage and personal vows. Before the ceremony ended, they burned the paper.

“It’s a way they can undo any vow that no longer suits them,” Ms. Kiemnec said. “These issues naturally get stuck in our body. This way, we bring them up and let them out.”

Ms. Kiemnec, who divorced in 1975, started her practice in 2009 after realizing she was still battling the negative effects from her own past relationships.

“Things I didn’t realize were there kept coming up, and it keeps us stuck, because you’ve got this old memory that keeps coming up,” she said. “You put so much time and effort into the marriage. This is a sacred cutting of those cords.”

Michelle Ansara, an accountant who is divorced, attended the ceremony after ending a long-term relationship.

“I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I thought I was responsible,” Ms. Ansara said about the ending of her relationship. After the vow release, she said she feels better about the situation. “The turmoil inside me has settled. I’d always felt guilty and it’s a belief and we etch it like a stone carver in our hearts. At this point, I’m no longer willing.”

Kassandra Schultz, 26, of Toledo, attended the vow release ceremony after breaking off her engagement more than a year ago.

“I thought it would be a good thing for me. Not just with that person, but with other people and situations,” she said.

She didn’t have her own party, but “I didn’t want to hold on to any bad feelings. It was like getting the dust out of your soul.”

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: or 419-724-6133.