Do you have a retirement celebration coming up? Whether you have your own impending retirement party or you have been tasked with planning a retirement party for someone else, it can be a little overwhelming to make all the decisions for such a soiree.
We have some fun ideas that may inspire you or at least help you get started thinking about the upcoming festivities. Let’s get ready for a great send-off!
What Do I Need To Know About Planning a Retirement Party?
First things first: how much time do you have? As you’re thinking about your plans, you need to really understand how long it takes to make things happen. Is this party happening next year? Next month? If you are an extreme procrastinator, next week? This will affect the availability of entertainment and food for the function.
You should think long and hard about the person who you are planning the party for. You may know them very well, or you might not know them that well at all. Either way, you are going to want to do a little research to figure out how to make the party special for them.
If you are a friend or family member planning the party, connect with their work friends and colleagues to find out any inside jokes or important information that might impact party plans. If you are a work colleague, check in with the family to find out what really matters to the person. Remember that, like a birthday party, the guest list for a retirement party is vital.
Perhaps most importantly, know that not everything will go according to plan. It can be extremely stressful to plan a retirement party because most people only get one in their lifetimes. We want to make them feel special. But just know that Murphy’s Law is always in full effect, and at least one thing will probably go wrong. Keep your cool.
What Are Some Fun and Memorable Retirement Party Ideas?
We want to take some of the pressure off and let you enjoy the party planning process. Here are some of our top ideas for the best retirement party that they are sure to remember forever.
1. Rent a Photobooth or a Photo Mirror
Let’s face it: the retiree will probably never see the vast majority of their coworkers ever again. Let them squeeze as many memories out of this experience as they possibly can. A photobooth (or photo mirror — a whole new photo technology!) and some fun props can make for great memories to look back on. Later, the pictures can be turned into a slideshow and/or posted on social media.
2. Get the Stories Going
Everyone loves a good story! However, if you rely on the spur-of-the-moment energy of the party to get people into storytelling mode, you might wind up with guests who have stage fright about telling their tales. You’re better off finding people in advance who are willing to get up and tell a story of their favorite memory about the guest of honor.
This idea is special because it works in an in-person or for a virtual retirement party. If you’re celebrating a retiree’s life and sharing retirement wishes over Zoom, you can still share stories with friends and loved ones.
3. Put Together a Program
This might seem a little silly at first, but it can be super fun to create a professional-looking program, just like the one you might get at graduation. Though it might seem formal and stuffy, you can make it as fun as you want. Imagine seeing a program where one of the speeches is: Speech: John Smith…….The Time Fred Lit the Toaster on Fire.
Looking back on the program will not only be a fun way to remember the party itself, but all of the other things that everyone at the party gathered to remember.
4. Choose a Fun Retirement Party Theme
Depending on the favorite hobbies and interests of the person retiring, a theme may be the way to go! If they are an avid beach goer, they could have a beach-themed party complete with swimsuits, flip flops, Hawaiian shirts, and beach towel party favors, along with a coconut retirement cake or cupcakes.
If gardening is the retiree’s favorite hobby, how about a garden-themed retirement party? There are so many options, and once you pick a theme, you will see that the rest of the party will quickly begin to fall into place. A theme also makes finding retirement gift ideas easier than ever for those that RSVP.
5. Do a Roast
If you’ve ever seen a roast before, you know it can be a fun and hilarious way to honor an esteemed guest. For those who aren’t familiar, in a roast, the honoree has friends get up and give speeches that essentially make fun of them and tease them.
The tone of the speech will change at the end, with something along the lines of, “but seriously, Hal was the type of coworker who would give you the shirt off his back…”
This one might not work for everyone. Make sure that the person retiring has a sense of humor, or it could turn dark really quickly! It’s also good to vet the roasts ahead of time, just to make sure everyone is following the proper format (i.e. ending on a positive, respectful note!).
6. Make It a Whole Song and Dance
Or just a song … or just dance. If you’ve got some outgoing coworkers, a flash mob or a personalized song could be a ton of fun. No one really cares if the singers and dancers are talented or not, it’s just a fun alternative to the typical retirement speeches.
Each coworker can sing a different line of a song that was written just for the retiree, and you can choose the tone. It could be touching and serious, funny and tongue-in-cheek, or a combination. If people aren’t ready for that, consider karaoke or even trivia.
7. Get Amazing Food and Drink
Of course, you are probably limited by the parameters of cost and location, but if you can pull it off, we recommend having a nice lunch or cocktail hour catered by a reliable company. You definitely don’t want a bunch of hungry guests with gurgling stomachs trying to give retirement speeches. And if you’re able to leave the office party and go to a bar or BBQ restaurant, the ability to have wine, beer, and champagne to toast with will be appreciated.
8. Create a Retirement-Themed Playlist
You are probably not going to hire a DJ for this event, but you can definitely have someone’s phone or tablet playing a specially curated playlist of songs. Any songs about leaving, getting out of town, or spending lazy days in a bathing suit on the beach will do the trick!
If you’re looking for song ideas, just about any Jimmy Buffet song will do. We also love 9-5 by Dolly Parton, Happy Trails by Roy Rogers, and Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.
9. Smash the Clock!
A trend that we have seen sweeping retirement parties across the country is the smashing of the alarm clock. Sure, nowadays most people use their cell phones as an alarm clock, but the old standby alarm clock has come to represent early mornings, long commutes, and workday life. No need to set that alarm anymore!
It may be slightly cathartic (and also just super fun) for the retiree and guests to take a hammer or mallet and just go to town smashing up an old alarm clock. You could even head to your local thrift store and grab several old alarm clocks for this activity. Just make sure everyone has a pair of safety goggles, and spectators keep a safe distance.
10. Give Something To Commemorate the Retiree
It is typical that retirees get some kind of memento to celebrate their time working for a company. Traditionally, gifts like watches, plaques, or clocks are given. However, you can get creative.
Planting a tree for them would give them a retirement gift that would live on for years to come and would be beautiful in their backyard. Keeping with a retirement theme, what about a personalized beach chair for long days at the beach? The sky’s the limit!
11. Keep in Touch
Now, we aren’t going to create the illusion that when we retire, we always keep in touch with the people we worked with. However, our coworkers represent such a huge part of our lives, it makes sense that we might want to have a way to contact them.
We recommend getting a guest book and having people not only include well wishes and happy retirement hopes but also include phone numbers and personal email addresses so that keeping in touch is possible.
12. Do “One Last…”
This will depend on you and your colleagues! It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a part of the party but could occur before or after. If you all had a tradition of ordering lunch together from your favorite deli on Fridays, do “One Last Sandwich.” Whatever your workplace tradition(s), do it one last time, maybe on their last day in the office.
Planning a fun retirement party doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Just think about who the retiree is, and what is important to them. Consider activities that focus on the fun memories and nostalgia of their esteemed career, give them ways to keep in touch with coworkers, and commemorate their retirement with some sort of keepsake.
Make sure to have meaningful music and a fun activity or two planned, and a few strong speeches are also key. Goodbye paystubs, hello pension!