For parting partners, Las Vegas can be the Shangri-La of the quickie divorce. It takes only six weeks to no-fault freedom, and if you know how to play the game, it can take as few as 16 days.
Now the city is seeing a new kind of ex-spouse rising from the dust of division: the celebrant.
Divorce parties are the coming-out celebrations of the new adulthood. In a country where the issuance of divorce papers runs neck and neck with marriage licenses, some celebrating singles are taking their rites of passage to Las Vegas and toasting their new freedom with all-night parties spent with cadres of friends.
"Divorce parties in Vegas have been exploding over the past two years, probably thanks to people like Shanna Moakler," says Andrea Eppolito, director of special events and catering for Sushi Roku and Boa, scene-stirring restaurants at the Forum in Caesars Palace.
Moakler, the 1995 Miss USA and "Dancing With the Stars" contestant, recently celebrated her split from drummer Travis Barker with a group of gal pals in an all-night soiree at the Bellagio. The well-publicized event helped reinforce Vegas as a post-divorce playground.
Eppolito got into the act a few years ago when she threw her own divorce party with a cake and girlfriends, a therapeutic event that she said allowed her to put the past behind her.
Divorce parties are not cookie-cutter affairs, she notes. Some people want a rollicking good time with a limo and a trip through the ultra-lounges in town while others want a large suite, a catered pajama party with popcorn and ice cream, and a lineup of spa appointments the next day.
Men are slower to come to the divorce-party table, and those who do want to keep it light and bawdy.
"There are definitely more women making these plans than men. In fact, we rarely know it's a divorce party with men until they get here," Eppolito says. "With men, it's usually just a boys' night out, and they do not want to be told what to do. They tend to want the big wines, the big meats, the big limos to the clubs and something new in entertainment every hour or two, but it is not as easy to get a group of guys into these clubs on a Saturday night as it is women, so they really need to work with someone."
Women, especially those who have been married awhile, may not be ready for the club action. So Eppolito will set up spa days at Canyon Ranch, MGM Grand or Bellagio, which have rooms for groups to have manicures and pedicures together or massages between sips of Champagne and bites of chocolate-dipped strawberries.
She may schedule a private yoga class for the group or a guided hike into the mountains. She has arranged a personal shopper for these parties, followed by wine and food tastings and even poker or pole-dancing lessons.
"We've even held tattoo sessions for these women," she says.
Because they're already separated, by the time couples receive their divorce decrees, they are often ready to party.
"This is the time to make plans and send out your invitations," Eppolito says. "It's a good time to start moving your life forward."
Not surprisingly, Las Vegas has become the trendsetter in divorce parties. Eppolito is averaging one a month, and because she is not tied to a particular nightclub or hotel, she says she has more flexibility when making party plans.
Parties can average $125 a person for dinner and a toast to $2,000 each for a spa party. Costs vary widely depending on number and type of amenities, whether they're packaged or a la carte, the number of days involved, the hotel choice and many other factors.
Christine Gallagher, author of "The Divorce Party Planner" and "The Woman's Book of Revenge," suggests the divorcee think carefully about the party theme and plan from there. Don't hold back or be too extravagant, she says, but she believes the event is as important as the wedding. It should be a party to remember.
"A divorce party is an opportunity to vent, to cry, laugh, yell, whatever you need to do, in the company of loving friends and family," Gallagher notes. "And it can be a great way the newly divorced person can thank all the people who stood by [him or her] through the ordeal of separation. The party is an opportunity to announce your new status in life. You are now single and available for new experiences and even new relationships."
Donna Bogatin of blog .insiderchatter.com goes as far as to suggest sending out divorce notices, racy invitations to your party and accenting the event with a range of vengeful party favors. She also suggests a wedding-ring coffin and an ex-husband voodoo doll.
"What you do at your divorce party depends on how you feel about the divorce, whom you invite and just how impaired you get," she says. Bogatin suggests serving obscenely decorated cakes, watching "The First Wives Club" (or "Le Divorce" or "The War of the Roses"), holding a ritual burning of the marriage license, writing down on slips of paper all the terrible things your spouse did and burning those and having the guests write down and burn something they want to shed too.
Among Eppolito's extravagant but confidence-boosting touches: inviting a jeweler from Tiffany to create a piece of jewelry -- a divorce band with a date inscribed -- that becomes a touchstone for a woman's new life and a symbol of security and strength.
"Then at midnight we arrange a Champagne toast with resolutions for a new life and what these women want to accomplish in the next 12 months. We put it all together for them so they do not need to make any decisions, just focus on themselves," Eppolito says. "It's a very powerful time and a very powerful party."
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