Divorce parties are a new Las Vegas trend

In October 2015, Ariel Khawaja traveled to Cozumel, Mexico, to say “I do” before a group of 55 wedding guests.

Three years later she corralled her two best friends to stand beside her in Las Vegas as she said two other magic words: “I don’t.”

Anchoring the trip around a Drake concert, the 28-year-old, who works in real estate, filled her week with gambling, clubbing at the ritzy 1 OAK, partying poolside at Wet Republic—a day club at the MGM Grand—and otherwise recharging.

If the Hangover film franchise cemented Las Vegas’s reputation as the ultimate bachelor-party town, Khawaja and other fun-loving travelers are helping establish it as the opposite: the perfect destination for a divorce party. Often an exultant multiday escapade, these vacations celebrate—not mourn—the ending of a marriage.  

Just Another Milestone TripAlthough the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) doesn’t actively track divorce-party figures, it also doesn’t shy away from the issue, and seasoned Vegas hospitality vets have seen the festivities firsthand.

Adam Clough first heard about the concept 10 years ago but says it’s taken off more recently. He once helped a guest fete his divorce in the company of his former groomsmen.

“People started telling us that they want a fresh start,” says Clough, the executive director of social sales and concierge operations for MGM Resorts, which has 12 properties along the Strip. “At first we thought, Well this is different. But people come to Vegas for celebrations, and people come for devastating events, so in a way it makes sense.”

Preferring the moniker “girls’ trip” or “friends’ trip,” Julie Banning, a travel adviser at the Virtuoso-affiliated Embark, has seen the trend rise in the past year or so.

“Lately we’ve seen a lot of people finding any excuse to travel,” says Banning, who’s planned several such friends’ trips, mostly for straight women. “It used to be that you go on your honeymoon. Now you go on a mini-moon before you go on your honeymoon. This is like one of those milestone trips—like, ‘OK, guess I’m going to take my divorce trip now.’”

Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties Grow UpA few years ago, when Las Vegas native Bri Steck was deciding what to call her then-fledgling concierge company—which organizes dining, nightlife, and entertainment itineraries for tourists ready to get their party on—she purposely avoided the word “bachelorette.” To meet the rising demand for divorce parties, now about 10 per cent of her business, she went with Vegas Girls Night Out (VGNO).

What Happens (Only) in VegasWhile there was a time when a trip to Sin City might’ve involved posting up at a smoky poker table for an entire afternoon, today visitors embrace a more diverse range of activities. According to the 2018 Las Vegas Visitor Profile Study, just released by the LVCVA, although 74 per cent of visitors gambled while in town, two-thirds (67 per cent) did so for two hours or less per day. That leaves plenty of time for endeavours like seeing a show, a choice favored by nearly 6 in 10 visitors.

Not surprisingly, mending shreds of a broken heart with barely any shred of clothing is a popular option as well.

VGNO’s divorce-party clients especially appreciate the VIP seating at Thunder From Down Under—say, around the very tables the oiled-up Aussies-in-thongs dance on. Steck’s husband co-owns the all-male revue.

At Chippendales, the Divorcé Play (from $149 a person), often booked not by the divorcée herself but by a close friend, pulls some of the all-male revue’s signature perks—limo transfer, VIP seating, and shoutouts from the stage—into a tidy package that hits the zeitgeist head-on.

Strip clubs are also a popular choice. “Your spirits will be insanely lifted by the time you leave,” jokes Lindsay Feldman, the director of brand marketing for Crazy Horse 3, an upscale gentlemen’s club that’s hosted high-profile celebrity divorce parties (on back-to-back nights, no less) for Colt Johnson and Larissa Dos Santos Lima, the formerly married stars of TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé, as well as actress and media personality Courtney Stodden.

Custom details—a Colt-shaped piñata for Lima; a cleaved-in-half, three-tiered wedding cake depicting the bride kicking off the groom for Stodden—underscored an empowerment theme.

The confident, sexed-up atmosphere drives home another unalienable truth: Las Vegas is one of the best places on Earth to be single.

— Sarah Firshein, Bloomberg

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