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8 Party Ideas To Commemorate and Celebrate Retirement

Retired friends
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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

One of the best ways to celebrate retirement is with a retirement party. Retirement is a huge milestone and a great occasion to commemorate.

Even if you and your colleagues have been working remotely, you should still salute a retirement. Throw a party for yourself or get a friend to do it for you.

Plan to celebrate a friend or family member with the best party ever.

When and Where To Have the Retirement Party

Coworkers at a retirement party
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A retirement party can be anything you want it to be:

  • A Zoom cocktail hour
  • A luncheon during the workday
  • A Saturday night event
  • A sports game on a Sunday afternoon
  • After work drinks at a local hangout
  • Dancing on the desks in the office

There are no particular etiquette rules to guide a retirement party. The party can really be anything that suits the interests, availability and personality of the retiree.

Retirement Party Invitations: Whom To Invite and How

guest list
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Sometimes hosted by the retiree’s family and sometimes an official company event, the retirement party is an event where you want to mix the guest of honor’s family and friends with their work colleagues.

If possible, it is nice to invite associates from past positions as well as people the retiree interacted with professionally outside their own company — vendors, salespeople, etc.

And, perhaps most importantly, invite the people the retiree will be spending time with in the future. It can be fun to mix these different groups.

Nowadays party invitations are often sent via email using services like Evite or Punchbowl, but a fun variety of paper retirement invitations are also available.

And, Slack and Google Calendar are certainly efficient ways to get people on board.

Should You Have a Retirement Party if You’ve Been Working From Home?

happy retirement seniors dinner
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The pandemic has meant that huge numbers of us are working from home. Remote work may mean that social connections are weaker, but retirement is both a social and professional occasion.

So, yes. A party should happen.

Retirement Party Ideas

Grandfather with his family
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A retirement party is an opportunity to celebrate the retiree’s past accomplishments as well as their future endeavors.

Here are eight retirement party ideas for what to do at the celebration — whether it is virtual or in person.

1. Speeches

Cheers drinking beer
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Most traditional retirement parties involve speeches that honor the contributions of the retiree.

Usually the person throwing the party gives a speech, but you can also ask bosses, employees, friends or family to say something. Retirement speeches should highlight the accomplishments of the retiree.

It is also nice to recount the history of the person’s career — starting with their first job as a child or teenager.

It is also a good idea to involve all the guests in a commemoration. Encourage everyone to offer their own toasts or speeches. (If you plan to do this, just be sure to mention it in the invitation so that everyone has had time to think about what they would like to say or prepare specific remarks.)

Need some ideas for retirement quotes to include in your speech?

2. Commemorate the Retiree

Happy workers in the office
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Beyond giving a retirement speech, there are other ways to celebrate the retiree:

  • Autograph Book: Provide a blank book where each guest can write something about the guest of honor. To make it simple for virtual celebrations — just invite everyone to contribute to a Google Doc or slideshow.
  • Video Interviews: Ask someone to videotape the guests’ remembrances of the retiree’s contributions.
  • Roast Em: Arrange a roast for the retiree. A roast is where a panel of friends or colleagues gently pokes fun at while also commemorating the honoree. Ideally a range of people from different aspects of the honoree’s life can each speak.

Unique Retirement Party Ideas

A happy senior celebrates
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Want more? Additional unique retirement party ideas could include:

  • Slideshow: Collect photographs from the retiree’s life and have them scanned and running in a loop on a television or computer.
  • Create a Deck: Create a PowerPoint or Slides presentation that goes through the retiree’s work history and accomplishments. Have it playing throughout the party.
  • Toast and Drink Up: Can you make up a special drink that celebrates the retiree? Call it by their name!
  • Costumes: What about having all of the guests dress like the retiree? This can be a touching and fun tribute and easy enough if the honoree had a particular style of dress — a police uniform or perhaps they wore something similar almost every day — a button-down shirt and jeans for example.

When a beloved principal retired from our elementary school, all the teachers wore jeans, a button-down shirt and cowboy boots. It perfectly represented the retiree.

3. Create a Fun Theme for a Retirement Party

women arriving late at party
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If the retiree is lucky enough to be entering a life of leisure, you may want to celebrate their retirement with an event focused on their favorite hobby.

  • A golf tournament
  • A fishing trip
  • A gourmet luncheon
  • A picnic and baseball game
  • Are grandchildren important to the retiree? If yes, then maybe you could plan a party that involves fun games for the whole family

Themed Event Ideas

Retiree at a beach party
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If the retiree is someone who would enjoy a themed event, here are a few ideas.

  • Relocation: If they are relocating, you could plan a party around their new location. A Costa Rica themed party could have jungle decorations and everyone could wear Hawaiian shirts, for example.
  • Travel: A traveler might appreciate an around-the-world party with maps and food from all over the globe. Guests could wear attire from their favorite destination and offer travel tips to each other.
  • Focus on Accomplishments: You can decorate for the party by taking cues from the retiree’s life or accomplishments. Devote different tables to different hobbies, jobs or roles from their personal history.
  • Wine: For a wine lover, set up a wine tasting. Have everyone bring a bottle of something they really love.
  • This Is Your Life: You could do a “This Is Your Life” party where you recount the retiree’s entire biography with pictures, speeches and surprise guest appearances.

4. Involve Family and Friends From Outside Work

Friends taking a selfie at a restaurant
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So often in our culture, work is work and home is home. There is not a lot of mixing of the two environments. Some of the best retirement parties mix the guest list and this gives a really powerful opportunity for people to learn about the retiree.

It can be very touching for children and grandchildren to hear about the accomplishments of the retiree.

5. Create a Fun Retirement Themed Playlist

Happy retired couple
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If you are having music at the party, you could create a playlist of songs appropriate to aging and retirement. Maybe make it a karaoke party with only retirement themed songs on the system.

Some suggestions to get you started:

  • “Another One Bites the Dust,” Queen
  • “Working Nine to Five,” Dolly Parton
  • Any Jimmy Buffett song
  • “Kokomo,” The Beach Boys
  • “Touch of Grey,” The Grateful Dead
  • “Hit the Road, Jack,” Ray Charles
  • “When I’m 64,” The Beatles
  • “End of the Line,” The Traveling Wilburys
  • “Blue Skies,” Willie Nelson
  • “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” The Animals
  • “Young at Heart,” Doris Day and Frank Sinatra
  • “Vacation,” The GoGos
  • “V A C A T I O N,” Connie Francis
  • “Barefootin’,” Robert Parker
  • “My Generation,” The Who
  • “Happy Trails,” Roy Rogers
  • “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem,” Kenny Chesney
  • “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen
  • “Dog Days Are Over,” Florence + the Machine
  • “Take This Job and Shove It,” Johnny Paycheck
  • “Come Sail Away,” Styx
  • “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” Peter, Paul and Mary
  • “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” John Denver
  • And the list goes on….

Put it on Spotify for everyone to enjoy and think of the retiree when they listen.

6. Play Retirement Party Games or Plan a Unique Celebration

Surprised retiree
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Here are a few other fun ideas for retirement party games:

  • Smashing Success: Smash the alarm clock! An important symbol of the workaday life is the alarm clock. It may be fun (and perhaps cathartic) to enable the honoree and other guests to use a hammer or mallet to smash an alarm clock to bits. Old alarm clocks can be purchased from the thrift shop. You can put them in a pillowcase to protect everyone from shattered pieces. Just be sure to recycle the electronics appropriately.
  • Goodbye to the Tie: If the retiree wore a tie or any kind of uniform for their job, maybe you could have a pillow or quilt made of the clothing.
  • Fireworks: Nothing says celebrate quite like fireworks! For a memorable send-off, give guests sparklers or — if safe and appropriate — arrange a real fireworks display.
  • Pin the … : Instead of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, try pin the fishing pole (golf club, sunscreen, book, etc.) on the retiree?
  • Quiz Show: How about writing up a quiz about the retiree’s life and work accomplishments? Give a prize to the person who knows the most answers.

7. Make It Easy To Keep in Touch

Senior man uses his smartphone for banking
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One of the hardest aspects of retirement can be saying goodbye to people you see on a daily basis.

Help keep everyone in touch by:

  • Providing all of the guests with the retiree’s new contact information
  • Setting up a blog or website where the retiree can broadcast updates and easily hear from friends and family
  • Encouraging the retiree to join Facebook or Instagram and “friend” their colleagues

8. Give the Right Gift

Retire happy
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Of all the life transitions that merit gifts — graduation, marriage and the birth of a baby — retirement might be the most significant change and the least celebrated. It can therefore be hard to find advice for just the right way to mark this occasion.

Explore hundreds of thoughtful and funny retirement gifts — from classic options to books and more.

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