Ideas for Retirement Parties: Gifts, Supplies and Toasts

Officemates celebrating retirement party

Most of us look forward to the day when we will be able to retire. No more alarm clocks, no more overtime, and no more answering to the boss. Retirement is freedom -- and a wonderful reason to have a party!

Here are a few good ideas for planning a great retirement party:

  1. Location, Location, Location. One of the first elements to consider for your party is the location. It can be held at a restaurant, a local club or at someone’s home or backyard. To decide on a location, you may first want to consider:
    • How many people will be invited?
    • Will the event take place during the day or evening?
    • What time of year (summer vs winter).
    • Will the party be held inside or out? Consider the weather if outside. Will a large tent need to be rented?
  2. Guest List. Decide who and how many people to invite. Keep in mind that a guest list can grow quickly so be sure to decide whether guests are allowed to bring spouses and children. You may wish to arrange for a babysitter at the event so those with children can bring them or allow guests to make these arrangements on their own. The number of guests may also depend on the party’s budget. 
  3. Individual or Group Effort. Will you be the sole retirement party planner? Do others want to get involved and share in the planning and event execution? Often co-workers and family members will want to help. Including other people is a great way to brainstorm what ideas will be best for the retiree. Make a list of the tasks and delegate or ask everyone how they would like to contribute. Keep track of who is responsible for what task and set deadlines for completion.
  4. Themes. Theme parties can be fun if the retiree has a specific hobby or interest. Ideas for retirement parties with a theme are endless. If you use a theme, it will dictate the invitation design, party and cake decorations, music or entertainment and more.
  5. Sending the Invitation. Invitations can be sent by snail mail or email. Evites allow guests to RSVP online, send messages to one another or to the party planner and allow guests to make arrangements to carpool to the event. You can post directions to the event location, parking instructions and any last minute information for guests as well.
  6. Create a Festive Atmosphere. A retirement party should be memorable and fun. To get decoration ideas for retirement parties, head to your local drugstore or party store. They should have party supplies that you can use for decorations. Although, balloons, streamers and a nice assortment of appetizers, food and cake are a given, you might want to add a few special and unique retirement party ideas. Gather some photographs of the retiree throughout the years and enlarge a few into poster size copies. Posters can be made inexpensively at many "quick print" locations. "Frame" the photos by pasting them onto slightly larger sheets of brightly colored construction paper and hang them throughout the party room.

    In addition to these photo ideas, print a few quotes (either from the guest of honor or choose famous quotes that you find especially meaningful) on nice paper. Frame and hang them as you did with the photographs. Here are a few meaningful quotes to consider for a retirement party:

    • "Aging is not 'lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength." -- Betty Friedan
    • "People forget how fast you did a job, but they remember how well you did it." -- Howard Newton
    • "The things that one wants most to do are the things that are probably most worth doing." -- Winifred Holtby
    • "To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon the verdure is the most perfect refreshment." -- Jane Austen
    • "It's not the hours you put in your work that counts, it's the work you put in the hours." -- Sam Ewing
  7. Speeches. Welcome the guests with aretirement parties pre-written speech highlighting the accomplishments of the retiree. Be sure to tell a little about the person's career path, beginning with their very first teenage job. Include the guest of honor's many endeavors, and then let your focus shift to the upcoming opportunities that their retirement may hold.
  8. Create a Keepsake. In addition to your other party ideas, consider having a keepsake for the retiree. Ask guests in advance or at the party if they would write something about their experiences with the guest of honor. Supply some quality writing paper on which they can record their thoughts and assemble all of the pages into a keepsake book to present to the retiree. With each author's permission, read a few small passages from the pages at the party. Be sure to choose bits that are especially funny or inspirational.
  9. Make a T-shirt or Hat. Print a funny t-shirt or hat with something that the retiree would find funny.
  10. Throw-away Cameras. It is fun to place a throw-away camera on each table so that any guest can take photos during the retirement party. Inform guests why the cameras are there and ask everyone to be sure to leave the camera behind so you can develop the film later. The photos can be made into a memorable book of the party!
  11. Toasts. Having a few toasts can liven up the party and make the retiree feel special. Ask guests in advance if they would like to say a few words about their experiences with the guest of honor. When you send invites to the spouse, children, and grandchildren, ask them to share stories, and see if fellow employees could tell a little about what they have learned from the guest of honor.
  12. Retiree Speech. If you would like the retiree to make a speech or give a toast, be sure to ask in advance. Some people love speaking in front of a group, and others do not. Either way, do not put anyone on the spot by asking at the party.
  13. Create a Slide Show. As soon as you start planning a retirement party, you should start collecting materials to put together a slide show. (It can take a while to gather the photos.) You can create a short slide show using assorted photos or scanned documents from the retiree's work and personal life. Set the slide show to appropriate photos in a specific order or in a random order and let the computer sit on a table for guests to see during the party. You can also set the slide show to some appropriate music (the guest of honor's favorite song would be perfect) and play it for party guests at a specific moment at the party for all to see. Many home computers are now equipped with software such as Microsoft PowerPoint, to easily produce such a slide show. If you prefer to make a video, check with a local videographer.
  14. Gifts. Most people enjoy receiving retirement gifts. Decide whether you want to ask guests to chip in for one big gift or let guests know that they may bring individual gifts if they so choose. Some particularly appropriate gifts for a retirement party include luggage, travel certificates, golf clubs or books. The focus is usually on new adventures, so let your imagination be your guide!
  15. Throw a Surprise Retirement Party. Consider throwing a surprise party. If you go this route, the ideas may be a bit different. You can still come up with fun ideas for the party; you just can't consult with the retiree about any of the details. If you decide to surprise the retiree, the party needs to be carefully planned, including the time and place of the event. You may want to consult with the retiree's family about the party ideas you have in mind. With an employer's permission, a person's last day on the job could serve as the perfect time and location for a surprise retirement send-off. Make sure someone is responsible for getting the retiree to the party at a specific time.

    You can plan retirement parties that include coworkers, family and friends, or both. Decide whether it will be an employees-only event or one that includes employees and at least the retiree's closest family members. Make this decision early because it will affect your ideas for the party. If you'd like the party to be informal and would love to catch the guest of honor off-guard, this would be a good solution. Make arrangements for a catered meal to be delivered (or show up with easily transportable foods, such as trays of party sandwiches and sweets) and then gather everyone together for a little reminiscing and well-wishes.

These ideas for retirement parties should help you get started. Don't be afraid to seek out other party planning tips as well. Once you know how to throw a retirement party, you can use your planning skills for future parties. Remember, retirement is not only an ending, but also a new beginning!


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