How to Plan a Retirement Party

Five Parts:Preparing for the Party PlanningConfirming Party EssentialsDeciding on Details for the PartyFiguring Out FoodPlanning Party Activities

A retirement party is an event that reflects and honors the career of a retiree. Not only should it be an opportunity to show appreciation, but it should see the retiree off to his or her retired life in a fun and positive way. If possible, you will want to throw a budget-friendly party that will create lasting and happy memories for the retiring employee. The most important aspect of party planning is to throw a party that suits the personality of the retiree so that you can be sure it will be an enjoyable event for all.

Part 1
Preparing for the Party Planning

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    Enlist the help of friends, family, and coworkers of the retiree. The more help you can get planning the party, the less you will have to stress about covering every aspect of the event on your own. Family members and personal friends may be able to provide a different perspective on the retiree than colleagues, so be sure to include them in the party planning if possible. In particular, ensure that you include the retiree’s significant other (if he or she has one) in the party planning.
    • First and foremost, determine if the retiree would enjoy a retirement party. If you don’t know the retiree well, ask a family member or colleague who is a better friend of the retiring employee. Not everyone enjoys a big party, and in this case, a gift certificate to a restaurant where the retiree can have a quiet dinner with a significant other or a friend may be a more appropriate send-off.
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    Establish a budget for the retirement party. A budget will ensure that you keep finances under control and avoid breaking the bank for the party. You will need to consider if you will be required to pay for the venue, and you will definitely want to include a gift for the employee who is leaving.
    • Set your budget and stick to it. When you finalize a budget for the party, you may be able to present it to someone at work (either an employee responsible for company finances or a committee responsible for delegation of money to events outside of the workplace) to see if they are willing to cover any of the costs.
    • You will likely need to collect money from colleagues for the event. This amount can vary, but the requested amount should be reasonable for all employees. You can also let people know that they can donate more toward defraying the cost of the party if they want.
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    Make a list of your “party priorities.” This can be helpful if financial constraints require you to prioritize. For example, you may want to invite a lot of people if you work for a large company, so you might need to book a more price-efficient venue. On the other hand, if you want to plan a fancy dinner at a restaurant, you may only be able to invite a handful of colleagues and friends.
    • There is no right or wrong way to prioritize for a retirement party. Your “party priorities” list will depend largely on the size and general atmosphere of your company, as well as the personality and relationships of the retiree.

Part 2
Confirming Party Essentials

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    Make a guest list. This guest list should include those people who are important to the employee. In addition to a spouse or partner, don't forget to invite the retiree's children. You may want to ask the person closest to the retiree for help making this list to ensure that no one important is forgotten.
    • In addition to family and friends, make sure that no one important in the office is forgotten. You don’t want to create an uncomfortable situation in the workplace by selectively inviting some while leaving others out. If this is the case due to budgetary constraints, you may want to explain this to the people who are not invited. A simple “we’ve chosen only to invite colleagues that have worked with Sam for more than five years because of our budget restrictions” may be helpful to avoid any hurt feelings.
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    Choose a venue for the event. The venue can be as simple as a conference room at work, as personal as the house of a coworker, as big as a church hall or other public space, or as small as a table at a restaurant. The venue will largely depend on the set budget as well as the “party priorities” (most specifically, how many people you want to invite and whether or not you want food to be provided).
    • Consider renting a private space so that people are more likely to be able to make speeches and participate in party activities about the retiree. For example, if you decide to hold the retirement party at a restaurant, see if they have a private room that you can book for that afternoon or evening.
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    Send out invitations. The invitation should include information about who the party is honoring, whether the party is a surprise, where the party will be held, what kind of food will be provided, how long the party will run, what gifts are suggested, if there is a specific theme or expected dress, and if there is convenient parking and/or public transportation (or even carpools) to the party.[1] Invitations specific for retirement parties are available online- a simple Google search will provide you with some options.
    • If someone in your office is particularly good at art or calligraphy, you may want to design and produce your own invitations. This can also help save money that can then be used toward other aspects of the party.
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    Purchase a gift for the retiree. Choose something that is appropriate and emulates the type of person the retiree is. Whether it is a material possession, tickets to an event, a gift card to a favorite store or restaurant, or another unique idea, putting thought into a gift for the retiree is an important part of planning a retirement party as it will serve as a reminder of the retiree’s career.
    • If you have a party theme, take it into consideration when getting a gift. For example, if traveling is the retiree's next endeavor, then opt for a set of luggage that is personalized.
    • You will likely want to include a photo album (or something personal that commemorates the employee’s time at a company) as part of the gift. Include photographs of the retiree and peers throughout the years, along with messages from work colleagues and superiors. This can be put together as a “memory book.”
    • For a unique gift, consider making your gift a donation to the retiree’s favorite charity.[2] You can write directly on the invitation to donate to a specific charity, and have people donate whatever amount they feel is appropriate.

Part 3
Deciding on Details for the Party

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    Choose a retirement party theme. Choose a theme that highlights the retiree’s interests.[3] You may want to choose one theme (think travel, golf, the outdoors, cars, etc.) or you may want to choose several different interests of the honored guest as a way to highlight the many dimensions of his or her life. As an alternative, you can pick a popular theme for retirement parties.
    • Some popular suggestions for retirement party themes include “His or Her Hire Year” (where you feature clothing, music, television, movies, toys, and popular events from the year that the retiree was hired), “Company in Mourning” (where you ask everyone to dress in black and have them “pay their respects” for losing an important employee), and the popular “Permanent Vacation” (which can be a beach or luau-themed party complete with a Hawaiian shirt dress code and tropical drinks).[4]
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    Design a fun program that honors the employee. While you don’t want to have a minute-by-minute schedule of how the party should proceed, you will want to set aside a dedicated time for party activities such as speeches or games. Making a program can help inform your guests of your desired schedule. Print out the program on a piece of card stock and add pictures of the retiree for a personalized touch.
    • Consider how you want the event to flow. You may want to break up different courses of the meal with short speeches or songs that honor the employee, or you may want to schedule any speeches in the first part of the event so that everyone can relax for the remainder of the party.
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    Choose an emcee or ringleader for the party. This person should be tasked with keeping the party on schedule. His or her responsibilities will include announcing when it is time to eat, encouraging guests to join in on party activities, and introducing any speakers. You may want to explore the possibility of renting or borrowing a microphone for your emcee, but this depends largely on your venue and other details of the party.
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    Arrange for photos and/or videos of the event. If you have it in the budget, and if the status of the retiree calls for it, commission a professional photographer to take pictures of the event. Otherwise, designate a guest (preferably another colleague) to be the event photographer or videographer. Documenting the retirement party will ensure that it is a fond memory for the retiree for years to come. Make sure to provide access to these photos to the retiree after the party!

Part 4
Figuring Out Food

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    Make it a “potluck” event. If you choose to hold the party at a place that does not provide food, you may wish to make it a “potluck” party, where everyone brings a dish and is free to eat whatever they’d like. This can be a great option if you are particularly strapped for cash when it comes down to organizing the food for the party.
    • Make a sign-up list so that everyone can see what others’ are bringing. Try to make several different columns (including appetizers, mains, salads, and desserts) so that you don’t end up with twelve platters of vegetables and dip. You can also make suggestions and have guests sign up for a pre-suggested dish.
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    Have the party catered. Having the party catered will enable you to hold the celebration in almost any venue that you want.
    • Call several local caterers to see if they require a minimum number of guests at the party or money that must be spent at the caterer. You want to ensure that you stick to your budget when planning the food for the party.
    • Peruse your menu options, and ensure there is food that your guests would enjoy. You will want to make sure you include vegetarian options and options for those with gluten intolerance. Ask guests to warn you beforehand of any particularly severe food allergies or intolerances so that you can be aware of them when planning the menu.
    • Call around to find a reasonably priced caterer. It is always advantageous to get several price quotes from several different companies before settling on a caterer. This will help you stick to your pre-set budget.
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    Create a “set menu” at a restaurant. If you choose to hold the retirement party at a restaurant, it may be possible to create a “set menu.” This will help you include some of the retiree’s favorite dishes while still providing guests with a selection. In addition, it will help you to guarantee that you stay within budget.
    • Ask the restaurant if you can temporarily rename your chosen dishes in honor of your retiree. For example, having “Hank’s Holiday Hummus” or “Rosie’s Relaxing Rice and Beans” is a creative and unique way to honor the retiree. If possible, fit in the naming of the dishes with the theme of the party.

Part 5
Planning Party Activities

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    Try a “gentle roast.” A gentle roast can be a great way to get the room (and the retiree) laughing. Ask everyone in the room to write something down about the guest of honor based on a particular prompt provided by the party emcee. Invite anyone who would like to speak up one by one, and make sure you have a microphone if you are in a large space.
    • Make up your own unique prompts tailored to the retiree, or try one of these:
      • An embarrassing moment I had with Kevin was…
      • Something I thought I would never tell Kevin was…
      • The funniest moment I ever had with Kevin was…
      • The time I was most impressed by Kevin was…
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    Play career trivia.[5] Create a unique and personalized trivia game based on the career of the retiree. You will want to include a whole history (such as his first job, his first boss, etc.) and have everyone try to guess the correct answers (you may want to make this multiple choice). The person who gets the most correct answers wins a prize.
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    Toast the retiree. Ask the retiree's superior to give a short toast that emulates thanks for work done and regret for the employee leaving. A toast should be solemn, but should also be positive at the same time. It is not a time to “roast” the employee, but a time for genuine appreciation for a job well done.
    • Other guests may also want to stand up and say something about the retiree. You can either do an “open mic” session, where people are free to stand up and briefly say what they would like, or you can ask people to let you know when they RSVP to the party invite if they would like to make a short speech recognizing the retiree.
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    Include other unique and personalized entertainment. The entertainment should be based on what the retiree would appreciate. You can have coworkers sing a farewell song or perform a humorous sketch about the retiree. The most important aspect of retirement party activities is to make them feel as personalized as possible so that the retiree recognizes how special he or she was to the company.

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Categories: Retirement