The expo has become a staple of the insatiable wedding industry, with stalls upon stalls helping the newly engaged make the myriad decisions that go into their special day. But blushing brides-to-be were in short order at a related expo in New York City this weekend. Titled "Start Over Smart," it was the city's first-ever expo for divorcees, many of whom are wrestling with some pretty serious decisions of their own. And while "Start Over Smart' doesn't dwell on the happiest of events, the hundreds of attendees weren't engaged in long harangues or bitter fist-shaking. Instead, the expo tried to put a positive spin on what roughly half of married Americans will one day experience. Here, a guide to this "sign of the times":
What is a divorce expo?
Instead of vendors selling wedding dresses and bouquets, "life coaches, financial planners, family counselors, and even hairstylists" are on hand to help "new divorcees field the brave, new life of singledom," says Erica Ho at TIME. Attendees can also get tips on dating and sex, which could be especially valuable "if you've been with the same person for five, 10, or 20 years," says Cindy Perman at CNBC. "Your waistline is different now, your hairline is different, your dating pool is different — and dating is different."
Who came up with the idea?
Francine Baras and Nicole Baras-Feuer, a mother-and-daughter team, were introduced to divorce expos in Paris. "We're putting a positive face on divorce," Baras tells The New York Times. "Although it's difficult and a big transition for most people, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is a post-divorce life."
Is it only for women?
No. While women comprised 70 percent of attendees, the expo boasted men-only stalls and an evening "mixer" for those who wanted to "socialize and perhaps meet someone new," says The Associated Press. More men would be wise to show up at the divorce expo the next time around, because it's a "total cougar party," says Perman.
So it wasn't all doom and gloom?
Not at all. "While some of the raw emotion of divorce was palpable, there were some moments of levity," says Perman. Vendors even had fun with the idea, with one selling divorce rings bearing the message, "Trade Up."
Is this something we can export more of?
Probably. The expo was such a success that Baras and her daughter are hoping to launch it in other cities.