With their arms in the air and singing at the tops of their voices, 14 tipsy women belt out the words to The Righteous Brothers’ hit You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling as their narrowboat chugs along the canal.
The group, Jolie Kelsey, her mum Kay and 12 pals, draw admiring looks, waves, giggles and even wolf whistles from people enjoying a walk by the water, all bemused at their fancy-dress outfits.
When they hit a lock on the Leeds And Liverpool Canal there’s no shortage of men willing to help the girls as they quaff champagne and cider.
At first glance, Jolie and her pals look like any other gaggle of women on a hen party – but the truth is the exact opposite – they are in fact, celebrating Jolie’s divorce.
Like increasing numbers of British women, 37-year-old Jolie refuses to descend in to misery over the end of her marriage and has chosen to celebrate with a divorce party instead. The Jensen Law child support lawyers state that it is important for the couple to make necessary arrangements for the welfare of their children, post their divorce.
In a trend which has crossed the Atlantic from America, separation parties are becoming increasingly popular – and even men are getting on board.
New start: Jolie Kelsey and pals celebrate her divorce
After six years of marriage, it’s clear Jolie feels it’s “time to party”.
Her special gift from loyal pals is a CD full of break-up songs that include The Righteous Brothers and Dolly Parton’s D.I.V.O.R.C.E. which is being played on a loop as the narrowboat makes it way down the waterway.
The women scream with laughter as they talk about men, past loves and their future hopes and dreams. “Life’s just too short to stay in an unhappy relationship,” says Jolie.
“So if you get out of a partnership that’s made you unhappy why not celebrate?”
Jolie’s three-day party started near her home in Barnsley with the girls visiting two pubs along the canal dressed as sultry sailors before mooring up for the night.
The next day they made their way to the small town of Sutton Heath where they enjoyed a night out before heading towards home again the next day with Jolie dressed as a parrot and her pals as pirates.
Jolie split with her husband came after winning a “life-changing” battle with pancreatic cancer that was diagnosed 20 weeks into her pregnancy with son Theo James, now four.
“It changed my outlook on life,” says hairdresser Jolie, whose divorce was finalised last October.
She says she wanted to live for the moment, but her husband carried on life as normal in the same old routine.
“I wanted to feel alive and started to see him as boring and we just grew further and further apart. We’d been together for seven years before we got married but I just didn’t want to be with him any more.
“Things weren’t great and I wanted to make a fresh start and the party helped me do that psychologically.
“It was the best weekend of my life. We had the most amazing laugh and it felt like I was throwing off my old life and starting anew.”
Moving on: Jolie Kelsey says the party helped her psychologically
There are no statistics available for the numbers of divorced people who throw parties but experts anecdotally report an increase in the UK.
Suzy Miller runs the Alternative Divorce Guide website where couples can access specialist advice and help to cope with separation.
“More and more people are choosing to have parties or letting-go ceremonies,” she says. “It’s not just about celebration but about getting closure on a part of life that has now ended.
“It’s a very positive thing to do in moving forward and is more about celebrating what’s ahead than desecrating the life that’s been left behind.
“Divorce can be hard, especially on women with children whose whole identity can be tied up in the family.
“They can feel very lonely and such parties are incredibly useful in reminding them that they do have support – that there are friends around that are willing to help.”
Lavish: Divorce planner Christine Gallagher can throw a stylish party
And divorce parties are becoming big business. Blackpool-born Christine Gallagher is the author of best-selling book The Divorce Party Planner.
Now based in Los Angeles, she organises break-up parties for Brits and Americans.
A client once paid £160,000 for a lavish affair which Christine is not allowed to reveal details about.
And when asked if she has celebrity clients she says: “I can’t say yes and I won’t say no.”
She said: “The parties are mainly healing events, an opportunity to vent emotion.
“Some 75% of parties are thrown by women while men are more likely to have a few beers or organise a trip to Las Vegas with some of their friends.
“One woman had an ‘unwedding’ ceremony where her mother walked her backwards down the aisle to reclaim her maiden name.
“She wore a wedding dress then unzipped it to reveal a red sequin dress perfect for a planned night of partying ahead.
“Another burned her veil and weddings photographs, along with the pillows from her bed.”
Pop the corks: Champagne isn’t just for weddings
Christine, who is herself going through a divorce after 25 years of marriage, said: “After years of organising divorce parties my friends are all telling me it’s now my turn.
“I don’t think I’m quite there but will probably get around to it.
“As a society, we are into rituals and ceremonies yet we don’t officially have anything to mark the end of a marriage. I think that’s why more people are throwing these events.”
While the UK is still to catch up with America in terms of the lavishness of the parties, more women than ever can be seen celebrating legal break-ups.
Bride-to-be sashes are being replaced with “Just Divorced” ribbons on the streets of cities such as Newcastle, York and Manchester, which are usually synonymous with hen parties.
When London-based diamond jewellery designer Monica Bortolin-Cossa divorced she had a dim-sum lunch party with friends – then turned her engagement ring into a pendant.
Despite divorcing lawyer husband Abraham seven years ago, she still wears the diamond necklace.
“I loved my engagement ring, but didn’t want to wear it as it was, so why not?” says Monica, 46.
“Our divorce wasn’t particularly nasty but we had grown apart while concentrating on our different careers. I didn’t leave the marriage with any bitterness.”
Monica, originally from Italy, even gave a speech at her divorce party.
“I stood up and said how grateful I was that my friends had supported me and how much that had meant to me.
“Marking my divorce and having a sort of ceremony helped me emotionally move on. I look back now and being married seems so remote… like a lifetime ago.”
Divorce parties are not exclusive to women either.
Recruitment company boss Robert Leek is looking forward to a divorce party later this month.
With his close friends organising the event, he expects it will be a party full of surprises.
“I’m hoping it won’t be as crazy as my stag night when my pals dressed me up as the wrestler Jake the Snake,” he laughs.
Fond goodbye: Robert Leek even wanted to invite his ex Lyndsey to his divorce party
And Robert is still such close friends with his ex, Lyndsey, that he says he would have invited her to the divorce party if she had only lived a bit closer to his home in Bradford.
On the day of their divorce, the couple, who have a seven-year-old son, were with a wider group of friends at York races.
Robert, 36, who married in 2009, said: “The day before the races, Lyndsey emailed me to say we would receive the final divorce papers the next day.
“I had a real moment when I thought ‘how sad that it’s come to this’ but I didn’t have any regrets.
“We decided to split up because we’d become more like brother and sister than husband and wife.
“When I saw her at the races I bought her a drink and joked ‘this is the last one I will ever have to buy you’.
“It might seem a bit strange having a divorce party but it’s a nice way to commemorate the end of one era and the start of another. And that’s just a part of life.”