How to Honor a Retiring Colleague

If a close friend or colleague is retiring, show some respect and appreciation by throwing a retirement celebration. If you're not sure how, read on for some great retirement celebration ideas.

*Plan a Retirement Party Date

The first thing you need to do is choose a date. Make sure it's a night when people usually stay (or will want to stay) after work. If you are allowed to have a party in the office or other location, go for it. A party right after work at work may be the best place for your party. Everyone is already where they need to be and they won't have to drive somewhere else.

If you like, you can serve dinner at your party. However, many retirement parties just serve cake and punch. You don't have to go overboard with food--just the sentiment.

Send invitations to home addresses or place invitations in employee mailboxes. Don't forget to also post an invitation in the break room so that everyone gets the message about the party. Be sure also to invite people who worked with your friend at one time or another--other retirees from previous years make great special guests.

If you like, declare the day of the retirement party a special holiday. In the morning, let everyone know that it's [first and last name] Day. (Example: It's John Smith Day!)

*Plan the Retirement Party Decorations and Agenda

For an extra-special party, make a photo board of pictures from your colleague's past. It's okay to include photos of those no longer employed with the company (unless they left under bad circumstances, of course).

Before the day of the big event, pass an autograph or small scrapbook-type book where friends can write special messages to the retiree. Don't wait until the party to do this--give everyone time to write something thoughtful. Be sure to write the retiree's name and retirement date on the first page.

Whether the party is itself a surprise or not, ask the retiree's families to the party as a special surprise. There is nothing better than surprising a retiree with out-of-town children or grandchildren.

If a grandchild is old enough, ask him or her to write a few words about the grandparent. (This can also be done with children, but it's really cute if little ones partake.) Then see if he or she will read the mini speech at the party. The words can be fun, silly, or sentimental--as long as they're heartfelt, they don't have to be perfect.

Take a photo of the retiree's face and blow it up on a photocopier. Cut the faces out and glue to large popsicle-type sticks to hold up when the retiree arrives.

Ask colleagues to stand up and share a few words about the retiree. If people seem reluctant to do this, videotape them instead and then edit and show the video at the party.

*Plan a gift for the Retiree

Think about what hobbies the retiree will enjoy after retirement and purchase a gift certificate for the hobby. Examples include golf courses, sewing stores, scrapbooking outlets, hobby and craft stores, pet stores. However, make sure you have a sentimental or personal gift in addition to the gift card.

Some ideas for personal gifts:

A message engraved on windchimes, a Christmas ornament, or a piece of jewelry

A t-shirt with a funny message or "inside joke" on it

A handmade garden stepping stone with a personal motif or image on it (or handprints of grandkids as a surprise)

*Add special details to the Retirement Party

No matter how you choose to honor a colleague, chances are they'll be thrilled no matter what. However, taking time to make sure that you go the extra step on a few details will let the retiree know how much he or she meant to you or your staff. Include some personal touches and you will make the retirement party an event no one will easily forget.