How to Plan a Retirement Party

by Parties & Entertaining Editor ; Updated November 30, 2018

Hard work may be its own reward, but throwing a party is much more fun. Celebrate a long-term employee's efforts with a retirement party that signifies unique contributions and special relationships. Prepare your toast, raise your glass and send your co-worker off in style.

Consider the honoree's preferences. Does he or she prefer not to be singled out? Then something low-key and elegant might be appropriate. People who love to be the center of attention are perfect candidates for a roast.

Create a budget. Nail down costs for the venue, food and drinks, and entertainment.

Come up with a theme that highlights the retiree's interests, including hobbies, activities and passions. For instance, if he or she always seemed to call in sick on opening day, organize a ball-game party with tickets, banners, music and food. Arrange for his or her grandchild's little league team to come sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Plan a roast. Meet with other co-workers and brainstorm jokes and comments on the office politics. The key to a successful roast is selecting the master of ceremonies. He or she must be comfortable working a crowd--and articulate. A roast may not be not tightly scripted, so the emcee must be adept at ad-libbing.

Keep in mind that simply offering heartfelt appreciation for someone may be the best accolade of all. Start a round of toasts where guests can tell the honoree what he or she did that changed their life.

Choose a venue, again depending on the retiree's preferences. Would he or she prefer a small or large affair, a traditional evening or an out-of-the-box celebration? Some possible locations include hotels, art galleries, restaurants, country clubs, yacht clubs, American Legion halls, a historic mansion or a casino. Take a more intimate group on a sunset cocktail cruise.

Put up decorations that highlight the guest-of-honor's life and accomplishments. Display awards, trophies and photos. Create table centerpieces, each of which focuses on one of his or her interests: golf, classic cars, music, gardening, skiing and so on.

Hire a videographer or photographer to record the festivities. Encourage guests to toast--or roast--the retiree on camera and present the video to the retiree at the evening's end. See 330 Hire a Photographer.


  • Invite mystery guests: a former co-worker from years back or a first boss. Keep it relevant to the job. Have a guest book available for guests to sign, reminisce about old times and send good wishes for the future. While gifts aren't typically given, you could ask guests who want to bring one to select a gift that revolves around the theme, or ask for donations to a charity or organization close to the retiree's heart. Or include the gift in the price of the ticket.