It used to be that retirement parties were somewhat sedate affairs held at restaurants. There was usually a toast given, cocktails were served, and a meal was eaten. And there ended the party. Not so anymore. Today’s retirees are young and hip and ready to start the next phases of their lives. Many are going into a second entrepreneurial business of their dreams or planning to spend lots of time with their grandchildren traveling and exploring the world.
So when it comes time to plan a retirement party, think big. You may be a coworker throwing a party for a retiring boss. Or you may be a son or daughter throwing a party for mom or dad. Whatever your relationship to the retiree, you can make it fun and memorable.
Hire a band. Who says you all have to sit around the tables in quiet whispers? Even if it’s an office party, have it off-site and hire a really good band that can play the classics. Then encourage everyone to get up and dance.
Plan on having a theme. Go with a color scheme that makes the most sense for the venue. If you’re having a fall retirement party, use the colors of the season and any decorations the restaurant or hall may already have up as part of your theme. Why reinvent the wheel? Use what you can.
Next, plan how the seating will work. Will you have round tables where guests sit down to a meal? Will you have a buffet and random seats and scattered casual café tables? Will you offer alcoholic drinks or just sodas and juice? Will you have a cake or retirement cookies? Figure all this out ahead of time. If you need to take a collection to afford an open bar, do so before the event so you will be prepared.
Now, plan for the memorial portion of the fun. You can get baby pictures, embarrassing pictures of the person in their teen years, and/or current photos of the retiree enjoying hobbies. Get them all onto a PowerPoint or other multimedia format like slides and show them in a continuous loop for a portion of the party. Create a memory book for everyone to sign. Give each person different colored pens and let them write, draw, and otherwise express their good wishes in a scrapbook the retiree can take home.
Give people a chance to take the microphone and tell a story about the guest of honor. Warn people in advance so they can come prepared with a funny or touching story. Then set aside time at dessert or coffee hour for a walk down memory lane.
Have a memorable gift like a money tree to present to the retiree. This can be as simple as a real or fake potted tree that you clip dollar bills onto. It’s a nice send-off now that “money won’t be growing on trees.” Plus, it looks great on the head table or gift table. It’s one thing the retiree is sure to remember as unusual and fun.
Usually retirement parties do not include a gift-opening time unless there is a special group retirement gift that you want the guest of honor to open in front of everyone. Otherwise, let the retiree take home her presents to open in private.
Throw a great retirement party by planning ahead and not stressing about it. That way, everyone can enjoy the day.