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Divorce, Empty Nest, and Pet Adoption Parties? Here’s How To Throw 3 ‘Alt-Bashes’ In Style

Not your average celebrations.


When was the last time you threw a party? It was probably for a birthday or holiday or some other event that we all agree is cause for celebration. But here’s a question: Why do we wait until a “special occasion” to have a party? Being alive is reason enough, in my opinion — and I’m not alone. Recently, people have been throwing “alt-bashes” — a.k.a. parties for “alternative” events that aren’t typical festivity fare. Newly single? First-time dog owner? Soon-to-be child-free (because the kids have gone to college)? Consider throwing an alt-bash in your honor.

Divorce parties, pet adoption parties, and empty nest parties are three of the most popular types of alt-bashes. Not only do they give you a good reason to gather friends and family; they allow you to reframe stressful or emotionally difficult situations as joyous and empowering. We spoke to a professional party planner to get the skinny on how to throw three alt-bashes in style.

How To Throw: A Divorce Party

Divorce can be psychologically and financially devastating — but at the same time, it can also bring many women a sense of freedom or relief. Once you’re ready, this alt-bash can offer some much-needed catharsis. 

Event planner Virginia Frischkorn, who runs party planning platform Partytrick, says the most important aspect of planning divorce parties is keeping the vibe lighthearted. Keep reading for some more specific suggestions.

  • Go on a Girl Power Getaway. An AirBnb (or just a regular B&B!) weekend away with your closest girlfriends can help you usher in some much-needed positivity — and don’t be shy in making it all about you and your newfound independence. Frischkorn sees this as an ideal opportunity to celebrate the strength and resilience of women. You can make a playlist of confident anthems (think Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” and Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”) or have a movie marathon of woman-led classics like The First Wives Club, Waiting to Exhale, and Thelma & Louise. Top things off with a divorce-themed cocktail; The Last Word, an old-school gin drink, feels particularly appropriate, as does the citrusy bourbon drink Love on the Rocks.
  • Accentuate the Positive. However you celebrate, don’t get caught up in negativity. This alt-bash should be about a fresh start, not dwelling on a painful past. Oprah Daily recommends looking to the future by creating vision boards and writing out positive intentions. Frischkorn sees a divorce party as the perfect opportunity to cleanse your home, so if you end up doing a staycation at your place rather than a weekend away, try burning sage — it’s an ancient ritual that’s supposed to clear your environment of negative energy.
  • Embrace a Corny-But-Cute Theme. Oprah Daily has a number of delightful theme ideas for a divorce party, including “When Life Gives You Lemons” (use a yellow decor scheme and serve spiked lemonade and a lemon-flavored cake) or “Happy Trails” (a western celebration of new beginnings — wear cowboy hats, make a big pot of chili, and listen to your favorite country tunes). Another option? A “Ditch the Dress” or “Get Rid of the Ring” party, in which you throw your wedding dress into a bonfire or bury your wedding ring. Getting rid of talismans from an unhappy marriage can provide a powerful sense of relief, and it helps to do it with a close group of female friends.

How To Throw: A Pet Adoption Party

Adopting a pet is a surefire way to bring some unconditional love into your life; and even though you’re not adopting a human child, an animal baby deserves a celebration, too. A pet adoption party will let you introduce your fuzzy new friend to multiple human friends at once, which can help them gain valuable social skills (though of course, if your pet is shy or a rescue overcoming trauma, don’t force a party on them until they’re better acclimated). A party for your pet is also downright adorable — just think of all the great photos you’ll get out of it!

  • Provide a Place To Play. Frischkorn recommends a “Home Sweet Bone” party for new dog parents. Invite friends to bring their own dogs, and set up dedicated play stations for fetch, tug of war, or an obstacle course. (Giving your dog exercise and helping them make new pals? Sounds like a win-win). You can also embrace your inner child and play some dog-themed games, like Guess the Number of Dog Treats in a Container or Pin the Tail on the Dog. 
  • Have a Photography Exhibit. Figo Pet Insurance suggests sharing pet photos in a slideshow. As soon as you adopt a new pet, you’re likely snapping photos of them non-stop; but if this pet is replacing a dearly departed one, you might also want to pay tribute to your last dog or cat by including old pics of them to keep their sweet memory alive. If you’re really feeling fancy, you can even set up a pet photo booth and make some brand new memories with a photoshoot for all the present fur babies and your friends.
  • Give Your Pet Some Goodies. Don’t forget to give your new pet some homemade treats (try preparing bone-shaped peanut butter cookies for dogs or tuna and catnip treats for cats). The experts at HGTV say that party favors are just as important for dogs and cats as for humans, so put together some goody bags with a few choice toys and treats for all the animal guests to enjoy.

How To Throw: An Empty Nest Party

When the kids leave home, emotions run high. You’ll likely be feeling nostalgic and melancholy for a while, but you might also feel a tinge of excitement to follow your child’s new adventures — plus, to explore all the possibilities ahead for you and your spouse. An empty nest party can pay tribute to these complicated feelings.

  • Go Back in Time. Frischkorn notes that embracing nostalgia is key, and a “Before the Kids”-themed party is a fun way to kick things off. “Generation parties are always a major hit,” she says — think ’80s or ’90s parties. You can put on a retro playlist (try ’80s or ’90s hits on Spotify), serve food and drinks that were popular at the time (think cottage cheese and Bartles & Jaymes for the ’80s or sun-dried tomatoes and cosmopolitans for the ’90s) , and wear outfits inspired by the era (leg warmers and off-the-shoulder sweatshirts or stone-washed denim and flannel shirts, anyone?). 
  • Bring Your Dream Vacation Home. Many parents use their empty nest years as an opportunity to finally travel. Frischkorn suggests incorporating this concept into your party by using your dream vacation destination as inspo. “Include food and beverage options that are influenced by the culture and colorful florals, napkins, and plates based on a country’s national colors,” she recommends. “For any attendees that have traveled to your dream location, consider a travel-tip box where guests can write down their favorite places to go.”
  • Take a Literal Approach. Perhaps you’re looking to get a bit more literal with the empty nest theme. In that case, set up an “early bird” (get it?) breakfast, complete with a DIY omelet bar. Bonus points if you decorate your space with actual empty bird nests (which are readily available at craft stores). An empty nest party may be about embracing a new stage of life, but you can also use it as an opportunity to enjoy some memories of your kids — maybe you’ll want to break out the old photo albums along with some nest-themed cocktails, like these ones made with eggs.

Have a Very Happy Alt-Bash!

Whether you’re divorced, a new pet parent, or an empty nester, you’ll bound to find an alt-bash worth throwing. And if none of the above occasions apply to you, don’t worry — alt-bashes are just about embracing life’s little milestones, and finding excuses to kick back and have a good time. So, you can throw a party for just about anything.

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