14 Retirement Party Ideas


Have you ever thrown a retirement party? The chances are that you’ve never attended or thrown one. Of course, you probably haven’t retired, either! While these parties are a bit less common than your standard birthday party, they’re no less important in celebrating the crucial milestones in a person’s life.

However, planning a retirement party can be tough! While families can throw retirement parties, it’s most common for employees or bosses to throw parties for someone who’s retiring. Sometimes both parties will attend! In the sections below, we’ll go over some of the best ideas for retirement parties to help get your wheels turning.

1. Make Memories

A retirement party is all about commemorating the time and effort that someone put into their work and their life. Retirement is a huge milestone, and it most often means that someone will be spending the remainder of their days relaxing and living out their unfulfilled dreams.

As such, a great way to kick off a retirement party is to commemorate all of the great things they did (you did together)! Think things like:

  • Speeches
  • Scrapbooks
  • Videos and photos
  • Slideshows
  • A toast

Commemorating the time spent with the retiree is very important, but don’t forget to look to the future, either. During your speeches and while making scrapbooks, photo compilations, and slideshows, make sure to put just as much emphasis on the future as you do on the past. We know you’ll miss your favorite retiree, but they’ve worked hard for their time to relax, too!

Another side to this is to bring past memories to the commemorative occasion, too. This can be in the form of inviting past coworkers and bosses from previous jobs, having the family assist you in peering into the retiree’s early life, and more.

A retirement party is intended to be a memorable experience, just like all of the years before retiring were for the retiree! The retiree in question should be able to go out with a bang. That way, they have pleasant thoughts and memories to keep with them during their journey into retirement.

2. A Roast

On the opposite end of the retirement party spectrum is the roast! While this activity definitely won’t be right for everyone, it can be an entertaining and memorable experience to add on to any retirement party. If you’ve never heard of a comedic roast, it’s usually a group activity where friends of the roasted person poke fun at their failings and undesirable traits, but playfully.

Not everyone takes a roast well, and even the roasters can sometimes go too far with the activity. As such, it takes a particular person and a select group of friends and coworkers to pull off a good roast. The feel of a roast should be lighthearted, not condescending and inflammatory.

Additionally, the people who take part in the roast should be carefully selected, as well. Someone who dislikes the retiree may take things too far or offend the retiree during the process. Only people who genuinely love the retiree and know how much they can take should take part as “roasters.”

However, if all parties are on the same page, a roast can make for a truly memorable and unique retirement experience.

3. Funny Costumes

A great way to add some fun to the retirement party and turn it into something unusual is to add funny costumes into the equation. You can keep it simple and allow attendees to wear any funny dress they like, or you can take it up a notch with specific requirements.

One excellent idea for a costumed retirement party is to require guests to dress up like the retiree! This is a great way to poke fun at the retiree without causing any hurt feelings, and it’s a relatively easy requirement to meet, too. While some people might want to go all the way with wigs, makeup, and the like, all you need is an outfit that looks like what the retiree usually wears to work.

Another alternative is to dress up as essential characters and figures from the retiree’s past. For example, if they are big fans of a particular movie or television show, you could dress up as a character from that movie or show. The same goes for books or other media that they might enjoy.

If you can’t find something in the retiree’s past to dress up as you can always just make it a funny costume party instead. Have the guests dress up as their favorite characters or in funny costumes. While this might not be as relatable to the retiree, it’s a great way to add a bit of happiness to the retirement party.

This levity is especially crucial for retirement parties because they can sometimes be bittersweet. While a retiree’s coworkers almost always wish them the best with their future retirement, they will surely miss them when they’re gone, too. Showing up in costume is a great way to combat this bittersweet feeling that some might feel more than others.

4. Go Somewhere

A retirement party doesn’t have to be a boring office party. If you and the retiree’s friends have the money and the inclination, an office party can be just about anything you want it to be. It can be a weekend at the golf course, a spa trip, a group fishing trip, a picnic, and much more.

Consider what the retiree in question likes to do. Are they a frequent hiker? Do they like being outdoors in the wilderness, or do they prefer to stay in? Are there any things they’ve always wanted to do? See if you can adapt any of these interests and turn them into a retirement party idea.

Even if you can’t actually go anywhere with your retirement party, you can base the party off of a theme instead. While this isn’t quite as good as the real thing, if you execute it right, it can be a great alternative at an even better price. If the retiree loves theatre, for example, you can decorate the venue like a Broadway play and ask the attendees to dress up as a memorable character.

5. Invite Everyone

Retirement parties often fall into several categories: work parties, family and friends parties, and mixtures of the two. If you can, it’s always a good idea to bring friends and family (or coworkers and bosses, if it’s the family that’s throwing the party) into the festivities! Having everyone the retiree knows at the party will not only make them feel more comfortable, but it will eliminate the need for another party later on, too.

It depends a lot upon who the retiree is and how they feel, but they might prefer not to go through two different retirement parties. By bringing both the family and the coworkers into the same party, you can save time and money, and it may end up making the retiree feel better about the festivities, too.

Some retirees might prefer to have two different parties, however, so make sure you know which is best before planning any events. Some people like to keep their family and work lives separate, while others just enjoy partying and would rather have more than one! Regardless of what the case might be, make sure to line up with the wants and needs of your retiree. It’s their special occasion, after all!

6. The Retirement Playlist

Whether you play it at the retirement party or somewhere else, it’s always a great idea to make a retirement playlist for your favorite retiree! There are many different creative ways to do this, and each method is sure to get amused reactions from the retiree in question.

Our favorite retirement playlist is the real retirement playlist. For this, you would want to add songs that relate to retirement or moving away. Some examples include:

  • “Hit the Road Jack” by Ray Charles
  • “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen
  • “September of My Years” by Frank Sinatra
  • “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver

Instead of using songs that describe leaving or retirement, you can always choose songs from the retiree’s generation, too. Any of the retiree’s favorite songs or iconic songs from their age are great, but they’re even better if they also relate to retirement!

Instead of just creating a playlist to play over the loudspeakers, you can take it up a notch by creating a karaoke playlist instead! Sing this karaoke playlist at whatever venue you’ve picked, or you could even bring a karaoke machine to wherever the party will be. While karaoke itself can be a bit of a hit-or-miss activity depending on how many people at the party like to sing, it’s still a great option.

7. Bring a Cake

While not every party needs a cake, why not bring one to your retirement party? There’s no reason not to have a cake a retirement party, and while it might seem like an unnecessary addition, cakes do make a party seem more “real.” A birthday party wouldn’t feel like a birthday party without blowing out the candles on a cake, after all.

While someone in retirement might be reluctant to celebrate yet more birthdays, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a cake anyway! Besides making a party seem serious and well-planned, most people enjoy the taste of a good cake.

If you find that you’re having trouble and disagreeing over which flavor of cake you should buy for your retiree, purchasing several cupcakes, cookies, or other desserts instead is an excellent option.

Don’t forget that there are many types of cakes out there that you can check out, too. Consider non-standard options like:

  • Ice cream cakes
  • Cookie cakes
  • Cheesecakes
  • Angel food cake

8. Smash the Alarm Clock

Among retirees, “smashing the alarm clock” is a somewhat traditional method of signaling a person’s graduation from the daily grind into retirement. Because the alarm clock symbolizes the need to wake up and go to work every day, smashing the alarm clock is the proverbial “end” to this habit.

Smashing the alarm clock, in our opinion, is not utilized enough in retirement parties. While you can always pulverize a real alarm clock if you want, why not take it a step further and turn it into a piñata? While piñatas are usually reserved for kids’ parties, if the adults at the retirement party can show enough restraint not to break everything around them, it can be great for them, too!

If you can find an alarm clock piñata, this is a great way to celebrate your retiree’s ascension into retirement! However, if you cannot, there are plenty of other options you can consider. As we mentioned, you can have them smash an actual alarm clock (hopefully a cheap one), or you can even put an alarm clock inside of a standard piñata if you want.

Alternatively, if you’re willing to get your hands dirty, you can either decorate or create your own piñata that looks like an alarm clock. How well this works entirely depends on how proficient you are with crafts, however!

9. Party Games

What party would ever be complete without party games? While not all party games are appropriate for retirement parties specifically, most traditional party games can be adapted to retirement parties or even used as-is.

Consider bingo, for example. You probably know how bingo is played already. If you want to make the game work better for a retirement party, you can do things like the following:

  • Make a “fact bingo” where players have to match up questions about the retiree with answers on the bingo card
  • Make a bingo card with several employees or family members’ faces on it
  • Play a fun bingo spin-off

Of course, bingo isn’t the only party game available to you – not even close. We’ve already mentioned piñatas and karaoke thus far in this article, and those are both great ideas for party games. However, don’t stop there! You can add in things like “pin the tie on the employee,” card games, trivia games, and much more to make your retirement party much more exciting.

10. Rent a Photo Booth

A photo booth is an incredibly fun addition to any party. While photo booths on their own are pretty cool, you can turn them up a notch by adding funny costumes or accessories, too! If your guests are already coming in costumes, as we suggested up above, you’ll already be set. However, if they’re not, make sure to provide a trunk full of accessories for them to use in their pictures.

As far as these accessories go, think things that are easy to put on, take off, and replace. Try to avoid items that will spread germs, though you can’t prevent this altogether with a communal costume basket. Think things like feather boas, masks, oversized glasses, hats, wigs, capes, and more.

While family and friends will surely use the photo booth for their own reasons, one notable aspect of the photo booth is that it will allow users to take home another memory spent with the retiree. A photograph can last a long time, and if, by some chance, you lose contact with the retiree, you’ll always have that photo.

11. Keep In Contact

While taking a picture for posterity is a great way to keep the memory of a retiree active even when they move onto the next phase of their life, there’s an even better way to do this: just keep in contact! While some retirees might want to leave certain parts of their life (and, most likely, specific people) behind when they retire, setting out ways to keep in contact is still a good idea.

However, because of this reason, we propose setting out the retiree’s contact information in a particular way. While you can always write down the retiree’s information for all of their coworkers and family to take down, this leaves the retiree in an awkward situation. Those people who they might have wanted to leave in the past would now have access to their new contact information.

You can remedy this situation quite quickly by flipping the roles involved. Instead of the retiree writing down his or her contact information for everyone else to take down, everyone else should write down their contact information for the retiree. This way, the retiree won’t feel obligated to speak to anyone that they’d prefer to leave behind.

A great way to do this is with a small address book or planner. You can even use something a bit more artsy and DIY-friendly if you have the skills for it! Simply provide a medium, such as a book, that people can write their information in for the retiree to access in the future.

12. Party Favors

A retirement party isn’t always all about the retiree. The guests deserve some acknowledgment for all that they’ve done for the retiree over the years, as well, of course. A great way to do this is to give out meaningful party favors to the guests during the party.

We’ve mentioned one party favor in this article already: photos from a photo booth. While this is an excellent start, you can employ more functional party favors, too, if you have the time. Think things like bottle openers, keychains, handmade cards or baubles, and such.

An excellent party favor idea for men is for the retiring man to embroider fun and witty messages on his old ties or neckties. Since the retiree likely won’t need as many of these anymore, he can use any that he doesn’t want as party favors! Not only is this a quirky and thoughtful gift, but it’s inexpensive and environmentally-conscious, too.

13. Make It Local

If your retiree is in a position of local renown, such as a police officer, mayor, or pastor, you may want to announce a local retirement party that anyone in the community can attend. This idea works in both large and small cities, though the size of your party and venue should be appropriately related, of course!

Making your retiree’s party open to the local public opens the way for many more people to attend. People that have been touched by the acts of the retiree will come out of the woodwork to celebrate their accomplishments and congratulate them on their retirement.

Not only is this a significant boost for the retiree, but this is an excellent way to bring the community together, too. The presence of great men and women in positions of public authority often define the atmosphere in small towns and help people in them relate to each other. The people in these positions deserve that extra bit of recognition for the work they’ve done in these communities.

14. Have a Potluck

A potluck party is an incredibly inexpensive (and not to mention delicious) way to throw a party! A potluck can apply to just about any type of party, too. While retirement parties are often pretty creative and free-formed with less structure than something like a birthday party or a wedding shower, they can still handle a potluck if you plan to eat during the party.

A “potluck” event is when each person who comes to the party (or sometimes, each family) bring a dish to pass (or to share with everyone else). This way, there will be plenty of different snacks, meals, and desserts to eat during the party, and the hosts won’t need to pay anything for the food, either.

Essentially, the working theory behind a potluck party is that, as long as you bring something to share, you can eat what others have left, too. Some people are more concerned than others about following or enforcing this rule. It also doesn’t apply to the retiree themselves, of course.

While you can just let each guest bring a “signature dish” that they like to cook, another method of throwing a potluck is to have each guest sign up to bring something specific. One idea is to take down the retiree’s favorite foods and distribute those among the attendees. That way, when the party finally happens, most of the retiree’s favorite dishes will be served!