Complete Divorce Ceremony Guide

Published July 1, 2020
toasting during divorce ceremony

A divorce ceremony can help ex-partners or individuals spiritually and symbolically mark this new transition in their life. Creating this customized divorce ritual around your needs as a couple or individual can help you release your past and look forward to a new future.

How to Create a Divorce or Separation Ceremony

Divorce or separation ceremonies are often tailored to the unique ex-partners' or individual's needs. This means that the ceremony can be short or long, and can include as many guests you'd like. Some may see this as a celebration of a new beginning, while others may experience sadness during the ceremony. If you are planning this with your ex-partner, be sure you're on the same page in terms of tone. While planning, it's important to think about:

  • How many guests you'd like to invite
  • How your invites will be sent out
  • Where you'd like to hold the ceremony
  • Who will officiate the ceremony
  • What the dress code is for the ceremony
  • If you will serve refreshments after the service

Spiritual Divorce Ceremony

An un-marriage service or service of dissolution can include spiritual elements if the couple or individual chooses to incorporate them. Some ways to include your spiritual practices:

  • Have the service led by a spiritual leader who aligns with your spiritual values
  • Hold the ceremony in a place of worship, or a location that is spiritually significant to you and/or your ex-partner
  • Use symbolic elements such as lighting and extinguishing a candle to commemorate the end of your relationship
  • Include religious verses or metaphorical sayings that encapsulate the tone you'd like for your particular service

Divorce Ceremony Script

It can feel difficult to know where to start with the divorce ceremony script. While many couples have an officiator or celebrant help guide the ceremony, a loved one, or you and/or your ex-partner can lead it as well.

Open the Ceremony

The celebrant or officiator begins the ceremony: "Thank you all for joining us as we honor the relationship of (insert names). (Ex-partner's names) shared beautiful moments of joy, happiness, and laughter together, but after (insert amount of time together), they have chosen to (insert separate or divorce). While this transition will be difficult, they both feel that it is the heathiest choice for both of them (insert "and their children" if applicable). (Ex-partner's names) will now share their (vows or promises) to each other." If you are hosting an individual ceremony, the final sentence can be modified to read, "(Name) will now share his/her promise for the future."

Divorce Ceremony Vows

Ceremony vows for an uncoupling service can help you finalize the end of your marriage. Be sure to keep your vows respectful and don't get into the nitty gritty of why you are choosing to divorce. You may wish to share your vows with each other prior to the ceremony, so concerns (if any) can be mentioned beforehand. Examples of divorce ceremony vows include:

  • For couples: "I never imagined standing here with you, but I understand that it is the best choice for us in this moment in time. I appreciate all that we've been through, and although I'm saddened by our decision to separate, I know we have a beautiful friendship (or co-parenting partnership) ahead of us."
  • For couples: "This has been a difficult year for us. I'm grateful to you for trying to work out our marital issues and I so appreciate you taking ownership of your part. I promise to continue respecting you and treating you with kindness. I'm saddened to let this aspect of our life together go, but I'm excited to experience the next phase of our relationship together as friends."
  • If you are doing the ceremony without your partner: "You all know how much I struggled to keep my marriage afloat and despite trying to make it work, I truly feel like this is the right decision. I appreciate all of your support along the way and want you to know how much I value each one of you who are here today. My divorce will be official in (insert amount of time), and I hope you will all join me in celebrating this next chapter of my life."
couple during divorce ceremony

How to Close the Ceremony

The celebrant may close the ceremony with a few words such as, "Thank you for bearing witness to the uncoupling of (insert ex-partner's names). They will move forward as loving friends (and co-parents if applicable). While they know it may take some getting used to, the (insert ex-partner's names) wish to maintain their loving relationships with you all. Please join (insert ex-partner's names or individual's name) for refreshments as we all celebrate this new chapter in their (or his/her) lives." You may also consider signing your divorce papers post ceremony with or without guests present.

Why Hold a Marriage Dissolution Ceremony?

Individuals or ex-partners may choose to hold marriage dissolution ceremonies for many reasons. Some include:

  • Opportunity to forgive each other and gain closure
  • Chance to honor the positive aspects of your relationship
  • Chance to declare your respect for each other in front of loved ones as you transition from married to divorced
  • A way to emphasize what your new relationship will look like
  • An opportunity to re-commit to each other as loving co-parents and friends
  • A chance to reframe your divorce as an opportunity for growth and learning versus a failed marriage
  • A chance for your community to see your divorce as amicable and loving, without placing blame on one specific partner

Should You Have a Divorce Ceremony or Party?

Having a divorce ceremony versus a divorce party is totally up to you. Both can be done with one partner or both ex-partners and both can provide closure. When deciding:

  • A divorce party may be easier to put together than a ceremony that is possibly followed by a reception.
  • A divorce party may feel more appropriate to some if you are throwing it solo without your ex-partner.
  • A divorce ceremony may have a more serious tone and a divorce party implies a lighter, more celebratory tone.
  • Both can have as many or as few guests as you'd like.

What if You Have Kids?

If you have children, it's crucial to think about whether this ceremony or party will be appropriate for them. Children should not be present if they are uncomfortable attending, or if the ceremony or party could be potentially triggering to them. If your child is old enough to understand the ceremony's concept, (around 5 and older), speak with them about it to make sure they want to attend. You also don't need to have your children present if you don't feel like it's the best idea to include them. Keep this in mind:

  • With younger kids you can say this is a friendship party for you and your child's other parent, and even though you are no longer together, you are so happy to be really good friends and to take care of your kids together.
  • Older children and teens may understand the concept, but may have mixed feelings about it. Allow them to share their opinion and ask if they'd like to come, instead of assuming they will be comfortable doing so.
  • If your kids do attend, be sure you are super respectful of your ex-partner and aren't making jokes about their shortcomings.
  • If your kids are there, you must show them that you and your ex-partner are a unified parenting front that support each other and are prioritizing your children's care.

Grief After Divorce

Even if you and your ex-partner are on great terms, are working towards a friendship, already have a friendship, and/or are co-parenting successfully, you may still experience painful phases after your divorce. Divorce and grief facts include:

  • Grief after a divorce often mimics a similar grieving process as one may experience after a loved one passes away.
  • Grief tends to come in waves and can be re-triggered even years later.
  • If divorce grief is ignored, it could negatively impact your romantic relationship with other, new partners, as well as your overall wellness.
  • Divorce grief can include stages or phases of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
  • If you have children, they may also grieve this loss.
  • Seeking support to help you and/or your children process can be a helpful tool if you and/or your kids are struggling with this change.
Sad woman lying in bed

Divorce Ceremony Movie Offers Ideas

Before you go through with your divorce ceremony or party, you can consider watching The Divorce Ceremony, a movie released in 2006. In this movie, a couple makes a promise to each other that if in one year post-marriage they are unhappy, they will hold a divorce ceremony to honor their relationship.

Divorce Healing Stages

An uncoupling ceremony may be a helpful healing tool to use as you transition from married to separated or divorced. The divorce processing stages often mimic the grieving process associated with a death. This means that healing will happen at your own pace and you may not experience every stage of grief. Be patient and kind to yourself as you process this significant life transition.

Complete Divorce Ceremony Guide