In Japan a new ceremony to mark your divorce and celebrate the beginning of a new life after divorce is becoming popular.
In a country where ritual plays a big role in cultural life the Japanese have created a ceremony to end a marriage modeled on the one that began it. Instead of slipping a ring onto her left hand and sealing their union with a kiss the couple is given a hammer to smash the ring to symbolise the end of their marriage and the start of their life after divorce.
There is even a Divorce Mansion where the ceremony takes place in front of smartly dressed if rather nervous close friends and family. There is a short divorce service during which the history of the marriage is given and even the circumstances of the divorce are explained.
Toasts in green tea to never seeing each other again are drunk and the guests are given a pair of chopsticks as souvenir from the divorcing couple.
After the ceremony, just like a wedding they go off to a reception but this time in separate rickshaws! At the reception there are separate tables for the ex-bride and ex-groom and some couples even have a cake, although I guess they don't cut it together! Organising who sits at whose table must stretch the diplomatic skills of even the most accomplished party organiser.
Many divorcing couples get a letter from their divorce solicitor to say the Decree Absolute has been granted - job done. Not a very dignified way of marking the final act of long or, indeed a short marriage.
A simple ceremony could bring a comforting closure to both parties by providing a dignified and civilised end to what is often a distressing and lengthy divorce process. However, the logistics of the reception could be a nightmare.
Wedding receptions are known to have their dodgy moments when, fuelled by large quantities of Asda chardonnay, internecine warfare between or within families could break out at anytime. These risks will only be higher at a divorce reception where differences of opinion as to the reasons for the divorce and the allocation of blame could give rise to some difficult moments.
Another Japanese import?
Despite its merits this idea does not look like something we are going to import from Japan. Most divorcing couples in this country would find a divorce ceremony just too much to cope with. We do not have a culture marinated in ceremony and ritual built upon a consensus as to what is and is not appropriate public behaviour. Whether that is a good thing or not is a matter of opinion. Maybe it works for the Japanese because the only refreshment for the whole ceremony is green tea!