In the Shondaland series The Magic of Moving Forward, we’re bringing you forward-thinking stories that illustrate how moving on from something is a way to level up. From women finding joy by throwing themselves divorce parties to vulnerable tales about entering new friendships and relationships, to discovering pleasure in life after giving up a bad habit — there’s no one way to flip the page and find happiness all over again.

We’ve all heard of wedding registries, where future brides and grooms share a wish list of wedding gifts. But a divorce registry?

That’s the idea behind Fresh Starts Registry, the brainchild of sisters Olivia Dreizen Howell and Jenny Dreizen, who know all too well the pain of losing personal property — whether a recliner or a Roomba — in a breakup. Not only can friends and family help the divorcée recoup her losses, but they can also acknowledge and celebrate this fresh new chapter.

This is just one example of how people are changing the narrative surrounding divorce. Though divorce has been traditionally associated with failure and shame, particularly in certain religions, divorcées today are finding joy in the transition and celebrating it through divorce parties and photo shoots. Here are three of their stories.

Jenny Green Powers

Everything seemed perfect when Jenny Green Powers got married in 2002. More than 300 guests attended the lavish black-tie affair at the Rainbow Room in New York City, and the marriage was featured in the wedding section of The New York Times. She had known her groom for 15 years and had dated for several years before tying the knot.

However, within two years, Powers moved out and filed for divorce due to irreconcilable differences. “Our marriage was so short-lived that I joked we went from tying the knot to tying a noose,” the reporter tells Shondaland. “After splitting our wedding money, I used some of my share to pay for my divorce lawyer, which was pretty ironic.”

Since she worked in special events and loved playing hostess — often planning birthday dinners, girls’ nights out, and taco nights — Powers decided to throw a divorce party, even though she had never heard of one before. “I also felt like I wanted to celebrate my newfound freedom,” she says. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was also very angry and bitter at my ex and felt I’d wasted years with him. This party was like a rebirth, welcoming back the happy, fun-loving woman I’d been before him.”

jenny green powers
Jenny Green Powers is shown in a headshot.
Brian Ziegler

She decided to host the February 2005 event at Dorrian’s on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a favorite haunt for Powers and her friends when they were younger. “It was like a second home to me, so it was obvious to me from the start that this is where I’d host my divorce party,” she says. In the back room of the venue, which has a dedicated bar, she decorated with balloons, paper wedding bells, Ring Pops, and fake gold wedding bands. In addition to a wedding cake cut in half down the middle, Powers gifted the first 100 guests with T-shirts that read, “Jenny got divorced, and all I got was this Lousy T-shirt.” She adds: “The ‘Lou’ in the word ‘Lousy’ was circled since my ex-husband’s name was Lou.”

About 150 guests attended the affair, including Powers’ parents and her former bridesmaids. The attendees seemed split on the idea of a divorce party, she recalls. “The women loved the idea and thought it was totally badass. They thought I was brave and were happy to celebrate alongside me. The men were a bit more apprehensive, and more than one told me they would die if they ever had an ex that hosted a divorce party after splitting with them, but they drank and partied all the same.”

After the event, Powers couldn’t have been happier. “It felt like I could close the book on that part of my life and move on to bigger and better things,” she says. “I was hopeful and excited to get settled in my new apartment and date and look towards a bright future.”

Today, she lives in Brooklyn with her second husband of 17 years and their daughter. She looks back on her divorce party with fondness and is thrilled that the idea has become more mainstream since then. “I think it marks the end of a chapter and is a great way to acknowledge this isn’t the end. It’s the beginning of your new life,” she says. “I think a lot of women and men feel the same way and host these parties to say to the world, ‘My marriage may not have worked out, but I’m not defeated.’”

Lydia Elle

If you look at the stunning portrait of Lydia Elle and her then-8-month-old daughter, London, it looks like all is right in the world. But when the picture was taken in 2010, Elle felt like a failure. She had just separated from her husband and was on the road to divorce because of irreconcilable differences. Elle had recently moved back in to her old home in Alabama and was learning what it meant to be a single mom.

However, she scheduled this divorce photo shoot because she wanted to capture the hope that she had for their new life as a duo. “There was so much that was uncertain because it wasn’t the future that I had imagined,” Elle says. “But I knew what I wanted my future to look like versus how I may have felt then. I really wanted to signify that even in the midst of present uncertainty, there was future joy. I look at that as a bookmark in our life.”

Elle didn’t have much time to prepare for the shoot as it took place just 30 minutes after she got home from work. She couldn’t find the white dress that she had hoped to put on London, and she recalls that she was wearing minimal makeup. Elle did ensure that their hair looked similar, worn in a natural style. The photographer snapped the shots in the living room, using a brown couch cushion for the baby to rest on.

lydia elle
Lydia Elle is pictured with her daughter, London, in a professional photoshoot following her divorce.
Gianna Snell Photography

Even though the shoot was simple, Elle was floored when she saw the photos, with mother and daughter glowing and exuding joy. “I wasn’t expecting such a great result,” she says. “The pictures really capture what I wanted. I am looking at her like everything’s going to be all right, and she’s the embodiment of sunshine.”

Although she didn’t describe it as a divorce photo shoot when she shared the images on social media, Elle knew that she was making a bold statement. “To have a family portrait and it not be three people, I think that spoke many more volumes than even a caption would,” she says. But friends and family loved the photos and could feel the hope that Elle wanted to capture.

While Elle came up with the idea by herself and wasn’t inspired by something similar, divorce photo shoots have become much more popular in the years since. And she completely understands why shoots and divorce parties are appealing. “There’s so much shame that’s attached to divorce,” she explains. “People want to change that narrative and not be hamstrung by societal expectations of happiness. When a divorce happens, it doesn’t mean that the worst has. It just means that that season for those two people did not last as long as they anticipated. So, divorce parties and photo shoots allow people to take back that feeling like they’ve let people down. Because ultimately, it’s about your happiness.”

Currently, she resides in Los Angeles with London and works as a program manager. And Elle is happy to report that she’s currently living the blissful life as a single mom that she dreamed of back when the photo shoot first took place.

Jeana Park

Jeana Park gave all she could to her marriage — until she couldn’t give any more. When the Montreal resident first met her husband, he was jobless and in debt, but she supported him then and after they got married in 2007. For 10 years, she worked full time in banking while raising two children as her husband mistreated her and vainly tried to get a pipe dream project off the ground. Park was miserable and finally had enough. The two separated in May 2017 and finalized the divorce in October 2019.

jeana park
Jeana Park is pictured at her divorce party.
Jeana Park

Needless to say, the divorce wasn’t amicable, with Park describing it as “painful, dramatic, and unbelievable.” It had a detrimental effect on her career, and she wound up spending nearly $1 million on lawyers’ fees and payments to her ex-husband. When the whole process was finally over, she wanted nothing more than to celebrate. “I was so elated to have my freedom, I had to have a party,” Park says.

She decided to have a divorce party at her new home, despite the fact that the house was nearly empty because most of her belongings were lost in the divorce. She only had a small budget for the affair, so she prepared some food and asked guests to BYOB. Even though it was a no-frills event, she and her guests — who loved the idea of a divorce party, she recalls — celebrated in a big way. “Many people from all walks of my life came. Old friends, new friends,” she said, guessing that upward of 50 people attended. “I had friends lined up in the hallways and all over the kitchen.”

When it was all said and done, Park felt “loved, content, and satisfied,” she says. The event was especially meaningful because, throughout her life, she was never celebrated for any big achievements or milestones. So being seen and supported by so many people meant the world to the new divorcée. “It was the end of a lot of pain,” she said. “It was my freedom that I was celebrating — and officially and legally getting away from a person who tried to hurt me and destroy me.”

Not only has Park grown as a person by leaving her marriage, but in her new position at Export Development Canada, she’s working to grow the national GDP through job creation and exports, putting Canada back on the world stage. “I’m very okay with my new mandate,” she says.

Chelsea Greenwood is an award-winning lifestyle writer and editor whose work has been featured in InStyle, Teen Vogue, Self, Racked, Vulture, Brit + Co, Sheknows, and Vice.

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