Downsizing Ceremony Guidelines

From the Celebrant USA Foundation

If you’ve just been downsized, take heart:  you are not alone and your support system of friends and family are ready to help you get through this rough patch.   Companies in the midst of downsizing or employees who have been laid-off should consider holding a downsizing ceremony to acknowledge this significant life-event and to help the person affected move to the next phase of his/her career. 

“A downsizing ceremony will make this transition clear and honor this milestone,” said Charlotte Eulette, National Director of the Celebrant USA Foundation.  “It will also ensure a rite of passage that honors a very important time in a person’s life and will be an inspiration for all who participate, including the company that held the downsizing.”

Following are guidelines from the Celebrant USA Foundation.

Who should have a downsizing ceremony?
The downsizing ceremony is important for three separate groups – those employees who have been laid off, managers who must lead the organization during periods of difficult transitions, and those employees who have survived the downsizing but may be feeling guilt and fear about their own futures.

Why have a downsizing ceremony?
Rather than simply packing one’s things and leaving quietly, organizing a formal ceremony ensures that all participants are given a chance to mourn the loss to the individual and the company, to honor the employee’s past contributions, and to wish him or her well in future endeavors.

Who should give the ceremony?
The employer can have a ceremony for the downsized employee or friends/colleagues and family of the person who lost or has left their job can give the ceremony.

Who to invite:
Invite people in the company that the employee worked with and had friendships with including clients and customers.  Ask the employee if they would like to invite family members or close friends.

Where to have the ceremony:
A restaurant with a private room to accommodate guests, the company conference or dining room or a nearby park/garden. Make sure privacy will be respected, that everyone will be comfortable and be able to hear and see the ceremony.

When to have the ceremony:
A few working days before the person's last day. Check with the employee and the people you are inviting to find out when would be the best day/time and place for all to attend.

How long should the ceremony be?
The ceremony should last about 25 minutes followed by music, food, gifts, a toast and many big hugs.

Should there be a main speaker at the ceremony?
Yes, while the employee, managers and colleagues should participate, it is helpful to have an independent Celebrant who has not been involved with the layoffs work together with those affected to officiate at the ceremony.

How to create a meaningful ceremony:
Make it personal and relevant:  Within the ceremony, expound on the employee's accomplishments and how special that person has been to the organization. If the employee has been at the company for many years, pay tribute for his/her tenure of service and dedication. 

Honor the friendship and professional relationships they have developed:  Invite close friends and colleagues to give a gift, possibly a book of poetry, or a scrapbook of their memories together. If the person had been a mentor to other employees at the company, have those employees say a few words.  Have management, a client and/or a customer that is special to the employee express their gratitude.

Make a wish box:  Create a wish box (be creative!) and ask guests to write their wish for the employee as a memento of friendship and good will that they can treasure.

Talk, talk, talk:  Most of all… talk directly with the employee and find out, in their own words, how they feel and think about the time they worked at the company, the people they met and bonds they forged, their accomplishments, the challenges and the meaning this entire experience has had on their life.  Ask them to tell you about their future hopes and dreams and incorporate these into the ceremony in a dignified and constructive way.


The Celebrant USA Foundation is a non-profit educational institution dedicated to helping individuals, couples families and organizations personalize celebrations that mark life’s milestones.  Celebrants have performed over one million ceremonies worldwide.  Celebrants officiate at virtually every life event, including weddings and commitments, funerals and memorials, and baby namings and adoptions.  With a focus on personalizing each ceremony to reflect the needs, beliefs and values of the couple or family, Celebrants are trained in the art of celebration, symbolism and tradition.


© Celebrant USA Foundation