Retirement Party Ideas

Retirement is a major milestone and achievement. So consider throwing a retirement party to celebrate this turning point — for yourself, a coworker or loved one — and reflect on the past.

Here’s how to plan and execute a memorable retirement party:

— Set a retirement party theme.

— Make a retirement celebration budget.

— Gather decorations.

— Select retirement party games and activities.

— Give a thoughtful retirement gift.

When throwing a retirement party to commemorate a coworker or loved one who is retiring, start laying the groundwork for the event several months in advance. “Shop early and plan ahead,” says Greg Jenkins, an event planner and partner at Bravo Productions in the Los Angeles area. “Last-minute planning will always cost you more.” Allowing time will also make it easier to think of creative ways to celebrate the retiree.

These retirement party ideas will help you create a celebration the honored retiree will cherish and remember.

Set a Retirement Party Theme

Developing a vision for the party often begins with a close look at the retiree’s tastes. If the person prefers comfortable attire, a casual affair with appetizers might work well. A semiformal or formal theme could suit someone who would prefer a sit-down dinner. An avid outdoors fan might appreciate a picnic at a local park. “When my dad retired, he had a fundraising party,” says Theresa Nguyen, a life coach and CEO of More Time More You in Frisco, Texas. Her father had spent his years helping immigrants and refugees. “Even on his way out, he still wanted to pour into this mission,” Nguyen says. “Instead of sending out emails, he personally called everyone to invite them to come celebrate and help him raise funds.”

[See: 10 Classic and Unique Retirement Gift Ideas.]

Lay Out a Retirement Celebration Budget

Find out or determine how much can be spent on the event. Then think through everything you’ll need, including food and drinks, decorations, rentals, gifts and entertainment. Compare prices of caterers and locations to find the best deals. “The budget also will dictate how many people you can invite to the party,” Jenkins says.

If you’re working with a modest budget, look for ways to cut or reduce expenses. If you’re having a dinner at a venue, consider a lunch menu, as the prices are often less for midday choices. For parties held at an office, ask everyone to bring a dish and have a potluck instead of ordering food. Dessert is another area where costs could be lowered. “The expensive mousse can be substituted for a more traditional and simple chocolate cake or mini cupcakes,” Jenkins says. “The rule of thumb is that most guests take two, three or four bites of dessert and the remainder is tossed.”

Gather Decorations

If the retiree loves to vacation in a certain spot, you might put up a display of the location. A Caribbean theme, for instance, could include pineapples, palm trees and coconuts. For a retiree who loves the mountains, consider hanging banners or pictures of landscapes and give guests the option of dressing in flannel or outdoor gear. If the party will be held at a restaurant, ask about available props and decorations.

To save on costs, look for items at the office or at home that could be repurposed for the event. Old or used picture frames might work to hold photos of the retiree. Lamps and candles can be arranged to set the right ambiance. “Effective lighting goes a long way to create an exciting environment,” Jenkins says.

Ask friends and colleagues to send pictures of the retiree, and use the photos to create a slideshow. The pictures could be displayed on a computer screen or projected on a wall to play continuously throughout the party.

[See: 10 Ways to Celebrate Your Retirement.]

Select Retirement Party Games and Activities

In addition to setting a start and end time, think through an agenda for the retirement party. If several people are going to give speeches, set an order for the speakers, and find out approximately how long each speech will last. Consider when food will be served, how long music will be played and at what time a gift will be presented. If you plan to have guests share stories or offer retirement advice, notify them beforehand so they have time to prepare.

If the party is for someone who worked at a company for several decades or spent considerable time with guests, games that describe the person’s character and bring back memories might be crowd-pleasers. “Have everyone write one word to describe the person, put it in a jar and then read it out loud,” Nyugen says. “It’s a tear-jerker.” Another game option: Have guests share a funny memory of the person during their time working together. “That one will get lots of belly laughs,” Nyugen says.

To keep the focus on the guest of honor, consider quizzing guests about him or her, suggests Shelley Grieshop, public relations director at Totally Promotional in Coldwater, Ohio. This can be done in a game format using party favors. If you use personalized coasters, for instance, you can place a trivia question on the top side of the coaster and reveal the answer on the back side. Questions might be related to the retiree’s job, hobbies, friends or lifestyle. “This idea not only gives guests something fun to do during the party, it prompts them to socialize and gives them favors to take home,” Grieshop says.

[See: 10 Affordable Places to Retire on the Water.]

Give a Thoughtful Retirement Gift

If you’re not sure of the retiree’s plans, ask a friend or family member if a special getaway is scheduled. “Then choose a gift to match,” Grieshop says. For a Hawaii destination, a basket with sunscreen, a travel pillow and warm-weather items could be given as a gift. If the person is hoping to travel in the next few years, consider giving guests the option of contributing toward a cruise or plane tickets. For retirees with a passion for a certain cause, a gift to charity might be a good fit.

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