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9 Memorable Retirement Party Ideas

Updated on May 16th, 2022
Fact checked by John Boitnott

John Boitnott

John Boitnott graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a Masters Degree in Education. He worked for 14 years as a broadcast news writer for ABC, NBC, and CBS News where he covered finance, business and real estate. He covered financial news for SAP for four years. Boitnott is now working as a columnist for The Motley Fool where he covers personal financial and investing strategies.... Read More

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Key Takeaways

  1. Party Hosts, coworkers, friends, and family members typically will give a speech about the person retiring.
  2. Many retirement parties include a fun activity that the retiree enjoys. Colleagues are coworkers, as well as friends.
  3. Create a special gift for the retiree that will have significance to the retiree long term, like a video or craft book.
  4. Connect the party to a local cause.

There were 28.6 million Baby Boomers – those born from 1946 to 1964 – who reported a retirement status at the end of the third quarter of 2020. Suffice to say that means that there could be a lot of retirement parties to plan in the foreseeable future.

A retirement party celebrates a retiree’s achievements and marks the beginning of a more relaxed lifestyle. However, not everyone is thrilled to enter this new phase of their lives. So, why not help make this transition something for them to look forward to with the following nine retirement party ideas?

Emphasize speeches.

Traditionally, retirement parties involve speeches that pay tribute to the retiree’s contributions. And while that may not sound the most exciting, there’s also nothing wrong with sticking with that tradition.

Party hosts usually make a speech. But, don’t hesitate in getting coworkers, bosses, friends, or family members in on the action. If you’re giving a speech, the list of accomplishments of the retiree should be highlighted. But, you could also share their career trajectory or how they assisted their peers throughout their careers.

What’s more, all the guests should be included in the commemoration. That means allowing everyone to make their own remarks. In that case, it’s a good idea to mention it in the invitation so that everyone has time to think about what they would like to say. And, make sure that you stress that their sentiments are safe for work.

Thankfully, there are ways to make this a more memorable event. For example, when a colleague of mine retired, the party was held at an upscale hotel. Before attendees sat down for formal dinner, there was a cocktail hour while the guests-of-honors gave their speeches.

Pick a theme.

A theme can spice up any celebration, whether it’s to celebrate a birthday or celebrate retirement. Additionally, there is no shortage of theme-related retirement party ideas.

For example, if the retiree is relocating to a beach resort, throw a beach-themed party. Simply have your guests dress in Hawaiian shirts or bathing suits while the office is decorated with inflatable palm trees. Or, you could go outside and have a volleyball tournament or hula hop competition.

Some other theme ideas could be;

  • A casino night.
  • Decorating the workplace like the retiree’s favorite destination, like Paris or Tuscany.
  • An elegant and formal event, such as an all-white or black and white theme.
  • Going nostalgic by transporting everyone back to the decade the retiree was born.
  • A karaoke party.

Go on one last outing.

Whether it was company retreats, monthly lunches, or wining and dining clients, the retiree properly spent a fair amount of time with their colleagues outside the office. So, why not go on one last outing together?

Maybe the team could do one final team-building activity by going on a scavenger hunt or visiting an escape room. Perhaps everyone in the office could spend the afternoon at a baseball game. Or, maybe the whole crew could go on a weekend camping trip.

Ideally, whatever you decide, it should be an excursion that the retiree would enjoy. So, for example, if they aren’t baseball fans, then this wouldn’t make much sense. But, if they’re basketball fanatics, then you could take them to that game instead.

Commemorate the retiree.

In addition to giving a retirement speech, here are some other ways to celebrate the retiree:

  • Autograph book. Allow each guest to write something about the guest of honor in a blank book. Then, you can invite everyone to participate in a Google Doc or slideshow for virtual celebrations.
  • Video interviews. Make a video of how the guests remember the retiree’s contributions. This could be both past and current colleagues.
  • Roast Em. A roast is a way of poking fun at someone to honor them at the same time. There should be speakers from different fields within the honoree’s life. Also, make sure that the guest of honor has a good sense of humor. Don’t forget to give the guest of honor a chance to speak at the end of the roast as well!
  • Bring in their favorite speaker. You may be able to invite the retiring coworker’s favorite speaker to the retirement party if you know who they are. They may charge a fee, however.
  • “This is your life.” The honoree should be seated in front of everyone (or if the party will be held in a hall on a stage) as per the famous TV show. Surprise your guest with several “surprises” from various stages in their lives to share funny and touching stories.

Craft something they’ll cherish forever.

It’s easy to forget about a party, but memories last a lifetime. For example, when my mom retired from teaching, her last class made crafts and cards that they presented to her on her last day. She’s actually framed most of these cards and has them proudly displayed at home. Thus, Samantha Moss, Editor and Content Ambassador at Romantific, recommends making something that retirees can take with them and look back on years from now.

“Sending off an employee on a high note is one great way to express our gratitude for their years of contribution to the organization,” says Samantha. “And, to make someone’s retirement celebration even more special, one thing you can do is prepare a video or create a book of memories for them.”

“Ask each employee to share their unforgettable memories, give thanks, and offer well wishes to the retiring member of your team,” s she suggests. “And you can also include in the video or book the career highlights or achievements of the retiring employee.”

Play games.

The retiree has probably been used to all work and no play. But now, in their post-work life, they’ll have to learn how to enjoy playing. So, what better way to send them on their way than by having everyone partake in retirement party games?

  • Quiz show. Wouldn’t it be fun to create a quiz about the retiree’s life and career achievements? Then, consider rewarding the person who knows the most answers with a prize.
  • Goodbye to the tie. If the retiree wore a tie or any other uniform, maybe you can make a pillow from it.
  • Smashing success, smash the alarm clock. The alarm clock plays a vital role in our daily lives. Having the honoree and other guests smash an alarm clock with a hammer or mallet (as their last-minute) may be fun and even a little cathartic. Consider purchasing an alarm clock from a thrift shop or eBay to protect your budget. And, make sure that you make safety a priority as well!
  • Pin something — How about pinning a book, fishing pole, or hanging a bottle of sunscreen around the retiree’s neck?
  • Go virtual. If you have a remote team, or the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to make in-person events impossible, consider virtual retirement games. Some ideas would be “Never Have I Ever” or retirement bingo.

Build the party around the retiree’s favorite hobbies.

You can also build the party around the retiree’s favorite hobbies. For example, a golf tournament could be organized at a local club for them if they’re avid golfers. And then a happy hour could be held at a local bar and grill.

Build the party around a potluck theme, or have a chili cook-off for the guest of honor if they are a foodie. Or, if they’re proud grandparents — host an outdoor party where there are a ton of family-friendly games.

Support a local business.

The scope of this will depend on how many invitees will be attending, as well as your budget. Also, you may want to consider the guest of honor’s preferences. For example, if they’re an introvert, you could have a small luncheon or a tasting at a local winery. For extroverts, you could plan a shindig at a local banquet hall.

Make it for charity.

Raising money for the retiree’s favorite charity while still having fun at the party is a great way to raise money for the retiree. Organizing a golf tournament or 5K run for the guest of honor’s favorite cause or causes is one way to go about this. You could even volunteer together as a team one last time.

Rather than bringing gifts, ask guests to raise money for a worthy cause. And, you can make giving easy before, during, and after the party by using digital fundraising tools such as Facebook Fundraisers and Charity Miles.

Frequently Asked Questions About Retirement Parties

What should a person say at a retirement party?

A retirement party is a perfect opportunity to say any kind and truthful thing. However, keep in mind that the individual entering retirement should always remain at the center of your attention. For instance, perhaps you can recall some of the fondest memories you have of them, like how they were a mentor or always willing to lend a helping hand.

What are the best ways to throw a memorable retirement party?

The key to arranging a memorable retirement party is knowing a few facts about the individual. For instance, do they have any special interests? So plan accordingly, after you receive that information -- and your retirement celebrations will be unforgettable for sure.

How can you plan a great retirement party activity?

That depends on several factors like the retiree's personality and interests. Of course, you should also consider the scope and budget as well. But, in short, any activity that gets the entire team involved will make for a solid retirement party activity.

What is the best way to plan a retirement party at work?

It is ideal for retirement parties at work to select one specific theme. However, you can hire a company specializing in virtual and in-person event planning as an alternative.

What do you wear when you attend a retirement party for your company?

If there is a theme for the party, you should dress accordingly. For example, if you throw a 90's theme party, you should dust off your favorite, broken-in flannel. Generally, however, retirement parties tend to be more official than regular events, requiring more formal attire.

John Rampton

John Rampton

John Rampton is an entrepreneur and connector. When he was 23 years old, while attending the University of Utah, he was hurt in a construction accident. His leg was snapped in half. He was told by 13 doctors he would never walk again. Over the next 12 months, he had several surgeries, stem cell injections and learned how to walk again. During this time, he studied and mastered how to make money work for you, not against you. He has since taught thousands through books, courses and written over 5000 articles online about finance, entrepreneurship and productivity. He has been recognized as the Top Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine and Finance Expert by Time. He is the Founder and CEO of Due.

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