35+ Memorable Retirement Party Ideas for a Coworker

Updated

If you are a member of your office’s party-planning committee you can do a lot. You may have planned baby showers, birthday celebrations, and retirement parties. You likely plan these events while still taking care of all your daily tasks at work. It can be quite the challenge and you might not receive recognition for all your effort. 

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Let us make life a bit easier for you. Here are some ideas for how to celebrate the retirement of a coworker. We will give you ideas for the menu, decorations, and location. Now all you need is for your boss to approve the budget to make your dream party happen! 

Retirement Party Ideas for a Coworker

The best retirement parties reflect the personality of the retiree. The serious-minded non-drinker in your office does not want to say goodbye at a happy hour at your local bar. The person who always talks about her kids would love to invite them to the gathering. The boss who hates being the center of attention would rather have a small get-together than a big party. 

There is nothing wrong with asking the retiree what type of party they would prefer. Then do your best to accommodate their wishes. Keep in mind that some people are programmed to say, “it’s not a big deal.”

Try to be respectful of your colleagues and their wishes. The assumption is that they’re just being polite. But it's quite possible they don’t want a party. If they want to celebrate, these planning tips can help make things easier. 

» MORE: You could spend your day procrastinating, or you could finally make your will.

 

Paris themed retirement party

Perhaps your coworker has always dreamed of going to Paris. Bring Paris to them by decorating in black, white, and pink. You can use mini Eiffel Towers as centerpieces. And create a playlist with classic French songs like Le Mer or Zou Bisou Bisou.

Give the guest of honor a beret and scarf to wear. Or give them to everyone as a fun party favor. Round everything out by serving French pastries, cheese, and of course, champagne. 

Decade party

When did your coworker begin work at your office? Have a party celebrating that particular decade, whether it was the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. Everyone can wear clothing from the decade. Or dress like a celebrity that was popular at the time. Play popular music from the decade.

You can decorate the space with pictures of famous TV shows, movies, and actors. And if you have them, include photos of your colleague during that decade. Don’t forget some nostalgic popular culture items for the tables. Rubik’s Cubes, Cabbage Patch Dolls, or Pet Rocks would all make fun decorations and great party favors. 

Celebrate the Roaring 20s

If your coworker is retiring sometime within the next decade, consider having a Gatsby-style party. You can encourage the attendees to wear 1920s clothing.

Consider bringing in someone to teach the party-goers how to do the Charleston. And don’t forget to serve lots of prohibition-style cocktails. 

Senior citizen party

If the retiree has a good sense of humor about aging, consider throwing them an over-the-hill party.

Any local party store will have senior-related decorations. Have everyone dress like a stereotypical older adult, and play big band music. You could choose to serve prune-based cocktails, but that might take things too far.

Picnic

Who doesn’t love a picnic? There are so many options with this party theme! You can keep it casual with a potluck-style event. Have guests bring those tried and true picnic favorites. You can serve hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and fresh lemonade.

Make sure you don’t forget the gingham tablecloths. Or make it more lavish and hire food trucks to provide some different dining options.  Include some time to play games and, of course, honor the retiree with speeches. 

Sock hop

Was the retiree born in the 1950s? Why not have a sock hop? Guests can embrace the theme and wear poodle skirts, cat’s eyeglasses, leather jackets, and letterman sweaters.

You can play music from the 1950s. For a sweet treat that’s right in line with the theme, serve ice cream sundaes.

Retirement Party Ideas for Your Mom or Dad

Who knows your parents better than you do? You are the perfect person to host a retirement party for your mom or dad.

This is your life

During the 1950s, there was a TV show called “This Is Your Life.” Celebrities came on the show along with surprise guests from their past. The guests could be old teachers, coworkers, and friends.

The surprise guests spoke from behind a curtain, so their faces were obscured. The celebrity had to try to guess who it was before they were introduced. And an emcee was responsible for hosting and narrating the celebration.

Tell your parent’s life story by hosting a “This Is Your Life” celebration for your mom or dad. If you can fly a few guests to town to surprise your mom or dad that’ll work well with this theme. And make the celebration even better. 

Surprise party

Surprise! Sometimes just throwing a party is a surprise.  Celebrate your mom or dad with a surprise party for their retirement. Consider hosting it at a favorite restaurant. You can invite coworkers, friends, extended family, and neighbors.

Decorate the tables with photos of your mom and dad through the decades. Ask people to speak at the party. After all, why should a person have to die before nice things are said about them in tribute speeches

Plan a party based on your parent’s career

Was your mom an accountant? Use adding machine tape and old-school green accounting visors to decorate the space. Was your dad a farmer? Decorate with corn stalks and hay bales. Are you celebrating the career of a teacher? It’s easy to find teacher-related decorations, such as apples and chalkboards.

Pinterest will be your friend on such an occasion. You will find plenty of inspiration for all sorts of careers on that website.

Garden party

Ask guests to bring gardening-related gifts for your parent’s retirement party. You could hold the party in a beautiful garden and serve cucumber sandwiches. Decorate with fresh-cut flowers and play soft classical music in the background.

Or for a fun reimagining of the garden party, actually garden. Let your parent’s friends and family help get the garden ready for planting. Sure everyone will get dirty, but they’ll have fun doing it. 

Fitness party

Is the retiree known for being particularly fit? You could host the party at a gym or fitness center. Have everyone wear their athletic gear and bring a water bottle. Everyone can take part in a Zumba or weightlifting class.

As a favor, you can give out inexpensive step trackers. If you have the space, create a smoothie bar. Each guest can make their own smoothie after the class ends for a sweet treat. 

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Biker party

If your parents are planning to spend more time with their motorcycle after retirement, have a biker party. Encourage everyone to dress in black leather and host the party at your favorite biker bar. Serve beer, sandwiches, and play classic rock.

If you want to have a little fun with the guests, don’t say what kind of biker party you’re throwing. Guaranteed at least one person will arrive in their reflective spandex. 

Fun or Funny Retirement Party Ideas

Hopefully, all these party ideas sound fun to you. If none of the previous themes have caught your eye, here are a few more suggestions.

Roast

Have you ever seen a Friar’s Club Roast on TV? During a roast, a series of speakers tell stories and jokes at the expense of the honoree. During the celebrity version of these events, the jokes can be rather brutal. It should go without saying that only certain people can handle this type of humor.

If you think your friend or family member can’t handle harsh jokes, don’t have this kind of party. It’s important to note that Roasts are usually formal occasions. Encourage those attending to wear black tie and formal gowns to set the tone for the event.

Casino night

Does the retiree love to spend time in casinos? Why not hold a retirement event in a local casino’s party room? Decorate the space with large dice, images of slot machines, and money printed with the honoree’s face.

The attendees will love participating in the gaming choices at the casino. If you have the budget for it, provide everyone with a little bit of gambling money. 

Square dance

If the retiree loves country music and the lifestyle that comes with it, why not host a square dance? Hire a caller to teach people how to complete the intricate square dancing steps. Encourage people to wear cowboy hats and boots.

You can serve a traditional barbecue dinner, with ribs, coleslaw, and cornbread. If you’ve got the budget, rent a barn for the party. 

Travel the world party

Is the retiree ready to travel the world soon after retirement?

Try to decorate the space with world maps, flags from other countries, images of airplanes, and passports. You can serve dishes from different areas of the world. 

Trivia night

Host a trivia night for the retiree. It could be fun to create a trivia game about the retiree. You can pepper questions about them into a larger game. Or have a small stand-alone game about them.

But don’t forget the more traditional trivia questions. Typically questions about pop culture, history, and literature will be asked. Keep it laid back and serve easy table snacks, beer, wine, and soft drinks. Don’t forget the prizes for the winners!

Mardi Gras

Is the retiree finishing up at work around the time of Mardi Gras? Why not celebrate their last day at work with green, yellow, and purple decorations? You’ll also need tons of beads and feathers!

The party doesn’t have to be fancy. Just play some jazz and get ready to eat. New Orleans is famous for its cuisine, so make sure you have plenty to eat! And don’t forget the Hurricanes. That cocktail is a New Orleans staple. 

Outdoor Retirement Party Ideas

If you live in an area with beautiful weather, why not take advantage of that and plan an outdoor retirement party? Outdoor parties often require fewer decorations, and they give people an opportunity to socially distance themselves. 

Here are some ideas for outdoor retirement parties. 

Pro Tip: Rent tents, outdoor gas heaters, or large fans with misters to make the event more comfortable for attendees.

Pool party

Plan a splish splash retirement party by hosting it poolside. A pool party is great because you have a built-in activity. Serve drinks with umbrellas and have tents set up for people who don’t worship the sun. 

Outdoor games party

Do you live in an area where tailgate games are popular? Set up cornhole, ladder toss, washer pitching, or even horseshoes. Create teams and a tournament schedule to encourage others to participate. 

An outdoor game party can be an inexpensive way to celebrate a person’s retirement.

Stargazing party

Celebrate a friend or family member’s new phase of life by looking into the cosmos. Gather everyone in a remote area and have plenty of low (or reclining) seats. Serve star-shaped foods and “cosmos” to drink. Of course, this party may be a bust if it occurs on a cloudy night, but that’s the risk you take when hosting a party outdoors. 

» MORE: You could spend your day procrastinating, or you could finally make your will.

 

Kegger

Relive parties of your youth by having a “kegger” retirement party. Buy plenty of cheap beer and wine, red solo cups, and have a huge bonfire. Encourage guests to wear what they would have worn at parties of their youth. 

Watermelon feed

Are you planning an open house party on a hot summer day? Instead of serving heavy appetizers or a full meal, consider serving cold wedges of watermelon. This simple party allows others the opportunity to stop by and offer well wishes to the retiree without having to stay for hours.

Ice cream truck

Sometimes older people enjoy reminders of their youth. Perhaps such reminders take them back to easier stress-free times. For that reason, hire an ice cream truck to serve at your friend’s retirement party. 

Hayride

Do you live in an area known for beautiful autumn weather? Consider hosting an outdoor party in September or October and decorate with pumpkins, changing leaves, and cornstalks. For fun, plan a horse-drawn hayride through a park or down a country road. 

Golf tournament

Is the retiree an avid golfer? Then, what better way to celebrate the ability to golf every day than to organize a golf tournament in their honor? 

Carnival

While most people associate carnivals with kids, the theme could also work for a retirement party. While this type of party may require a bit of planning and work, it would be a fun way to celebrate the end of the drudgery of daily work.

Frequently Asked Questions: Retirement Party Planning

While we have attempted to give you a few unique ideas for a retirement party, you probably have additional questions. So, here are some other thoughts about party planning to consider before you get started.

How can you make a retirement party memorable?

One way to make a retirement party memorable is to display many photographs of the retiree working through the decades. Of course, this is sometimes difficult to do – after all, who takes pictures at work? However, looking back at how fashion, hairstyles, technology, and the office have changed through the decades is a lot of fun.

You may also consider inviting previous retirees, others who have moved to different jobs, or customers and clients. The retiree may have a fun time connecting with a favorite coworker from the past instead of interacting with young employees who they may not have as much in common with presently.

One other way to celebrate the retiree is by giving attendees the chance to speak – even if the speech is in the form of a toast. Why wait for a person’s funeral to pay homage to a friend? Instead, tell them how much you appreciate them now!

Finally, pick a theme for the party. Of course, it doesn’t have to be one from our list, but having a theme helps plan the activities, food, and decorations and makes the party more memorable. 

What colors are good for a retirement party?

Any color would work for a retirement party. Most would decide the location and theme of the party before selecting colors.

For example, use orange, yellow, red, and tan for a fall-themed outdoor party. Consider yellow, bright orange, and green for pool parties during the summer. Are you having a black-tie affair? Then, of course, you should decorate accordingly.

Who usually hosts or plans a retirement party?

Generally, party planners or event coordinators from the workplace host and plan a retirement party. A retirement party can be considered a “thank you” to the retiree for years of service. 

However, some organizations are too big to celebrate each retirement, and they may have a group event once a year. Retirement parties may also be planned during the workweek (or a late afternoon party that stretches into the evening). Sometimes family members are asked to attend, and other times the party is just for those in the workplace. 

Sometimes families will host an additional party to honor a retiree and invite extended family and a few work friends. Family-planned retirement parties allow you to be a little more selective on who is invited to attend. 

Talk with the retiree about their expectations. For example, while some wish for a colossal blow-out event attended by previous coworkers and friends, others may opt to celebrate the beginning of retirement with a trip to a spa or dream vacation. 

Planning the Best Party

Don’t forget, the party should reflect the style of the person you are honoring. If the retiree is not the type of person who enjoys a lot of attention, host a more laid-back affair. If the guest of honor is traditional and formal, host the event at a nice restaurant or hotel event space.  

Sometimes older people at work don’t get the honor and attention they deserve. Coworkers may overlook their contributions because older employees work efficiently. Their efficient work style can make it seem like they don’t really have that much to do. But in reality, they’re just good at their job.

And often, the transition from full-time employee to retiree is a difficult one. Help make the transition smoother by bringing everyone together to celebrate. It’s a gesture that’s sure to be appreciated. 

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