Party Plan: Retirement Party Ideas

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Retirements are usually once-in-a-lifetime celebrations of a significant portion of an individual’s life–his or her workplace career. They are generally recognized by the company or organization from which an individual is retiring. The recognition may be formal or casual; serious or humorous;  just for the retiree’s coworkers, or colleagues, members of the retiree’s family and friends.

Retirements are often associated with a sense of excitement and sadness. Some workers look forward to moving from the work world. but others are a bit more reluctant or anxious about leaving something of which they have been a part for many years. Check with your retiree and/or his/her family and close friends to be certain that your plan for a retirement party is truly a happy celebration to mark this memorable milestone. Concentrate on the positive aspects because this party should be a recognition of the accomplishments of the past and an anticipation of an exciting future.

Here is a wide variety of retirement party ideas you might want to use in planning your retiree’s party:

  • Display pictures of the retiree around the party area. Have pictures of accomplishments or photos of the retiree, and let the guests add their own captions or best wishes.


  • Create a “Best Wishes Wall” where guests are invited to write or draw their wishes for the retiree on a large wall mural of blank paper. You might also create a decorative tabletop wishing well in which you encourage the guests to fill with best wishes written on provided pieces of paper.


  • Create a large decorative box or container to hold any individual monetary gifts from the guests—label it and place in a prominent place where the guests can easily see it.


  • Use a hammock of netting to hold the guests’ gifts for the retiree. A retirement relaxation scene with a real hammock, hat, radio, tropical drink, newspaper can be set up in the party space—a stuffed scarecrow effigy wearing the retiree’s clothing can be made to relax in the hammock.


  • Hang up posters and brochures from retirement communities, beach condos, cruise ships, and vacation spots as decoration. If the retiree is already planning a special trip, use pictures of that locale as a decorative theme.


  • If the retiree is undecided about how to spend the “golden years,” decorate your party room with lots of suggestions; these might be pieces or pictures of sports equipment, travel destinations, hobby supplies, or even want ads for classic retiree jobs such as security guard, fast-food server, or babysitter, with tips for those jobs.


  • Use the retiree’s hobby or interest as the decorative focus for the party—golf,  Civil War history, quilting, classic cars, grandchildren, gardening, the beach or whatever. Use the accoutrements of that interest—a real beach chair, towel, flip-flops, sunglasses and seashells for the beachcomber—as decorations.


  • Decorate with pages from a large year-at-a-glance calendar with dates filled in with humorous activities such as “1:00 pm to 3:30 pm—afternoon nap” or “watch bocce at the park.”


  • Borrow wooden rocking chairs from everyone you know, and set them around the room for the party.


  • The host of the party or another designated person should be prepared to give a short welcome and speech to recognize the retiree and his family.


  • Hold a roast of or “This is Your Life” of the retiree by the guests who share their favorite memories of the retiree. Speakers are called upon to comment on the career of the retiree, generally with a great dash of humor thrown in, as well as remarks of sincere appreciation and recognition by the department head, company president or even the chairman of the board.


  • Prepare a slideshow about the retiree with photos of the individual at work and at home to show at the party. A soundtrack of songs that are appropriate to the theme, wishes for the retiree or the retiree’s favorites is another special treat for the guests. Copies of a CD with the honoree’s favorites can be burned for the guests to take home as a special mementoes.


  • Have a photographer on standby to take a group shot and individual shots of the retiree and his/her work colleagues. These photos can be emailed to the retiree and guests afterwards.


  • Games can be tied to the theme of the party, the retiree’s work or leisure activities, future travel or “second career” plans:

Ask each guest to write down and share a suggestion for the retiree to do in his/her new leisure time like “finally learn to program the TiVo or use the DVD player,” “return my lawnmower,” or “finish your college-age child’s baby book.”

Play “What’s Your Retirement Quotient.” Ask each guest to test the retiree’s retirement “aptitude” by asking questions about possible retirement plans and having him or her demonstrate leisure skills. Have the retiree, for example, show everyone how to swing a gold club, tie a fly-fishing lure, cook a meal with four pre-selected ingredients, or pronounce a few French phrases.

You may research and come up with trivia questions about the retiree’s hobbies or travel destinations and play a Trivial Pursuits or Jeopardy game with the guests in teams.


  • Open gifts if guests have been asked to bring them. Depending on the type of party you have given, gifts may be opened before or after the food is served. Appropriate gifts for the retiree include materials for the retiree’s hobbies; tickets to movies, sports, musical or theater events; framed photos or photo albums with picture of friends with the retiree; favorite music, books, movies, or sports equipment; leisure comfortable clothing like t-shirts, sweats, hats, flip-flops or casual shoes; subscriptions to magazines of interest, favorite wines or beer, or travel accessories or books for planned trips the retiree hopes to take.


  • Gag gifts could include champagne, decks of cards, a universal TV remote, retirement, leisure or hobby magazines, humorous books on retirement; pen sets; insulated lunch bags, antacids and headache cures; stress balls, inexpensive “gold” watches.


  • Special commemorative gifts for the retiree may be planned by the group—engraved items, plaques, premade scrapbooks, original poems or songs, rewritten song lyrics, skits, special presentations, scholarships or donations made in the retiree’s name, original artwork or quilt/wall-hanging. These should be presented with much flourish to the retiree at the party.

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