How To Host A Retirement Party: Step-by-Step Guide


You want to plan a retirement party. And you’re probably wondering how to host the perfect retirement party? Don’t look further: I’m here to help you out with this step-by-step guide including helpful tips and fun ideas.

How To Host A Retirement Party:

  1. Make a budget
  2. Choose the type of celebration
  3. Pick a date
  4. Select venue
  5. Create guestlist
  6. Choose a theme
  7. Send invites
  8. Inventory on speeches or surprises
  9. Prepare a speech, toast or fun activity
  10. Organize party extra’s (photo booth/ party favors)
  11. Get a gift
  12. Do a last (sound) check
  13. Be a great host

To learn more about how to host the best retirement party, keep reading.

#1 Make a budget

Before you start planning, you want to know what the budget for the retirement party is. Because you can’t do any proper planning without you knowing how much to spend. 

If you’re the one hosting the retirement party at the office for a co-worker, ask your direct supervisor about how much you’re allowed to spend. Or if you’re the retiree hosting or a family member or friend from the retiree, ask yourself how much you want to spend on the retirement party. 

Once you know what the party budget is, you can make better decisions in where to host the party, who to invite, and what extra things you can afford to make it more memorable.  

It’s helpful to create a spreadsheet with a detailed budget plan in which you can keep track of how much you spend or have budgeted per category (venue, food & drinks, entertainment, invitations, decorations, party extra’s, retirement gift).

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#2 Choose the type of celebration

After the budget is clear, you can make a decision about what kind of celebration you want to host: brunch, lunch, dinner, dance party? There are so many different things you can do.

If you’re hosting the retirement party for someone else, think about how the retiree would like to celebrate. Ask the retiree or close family members what he/ she would like. Some people want to have one big retirement party with everyone involved, from co-workers to friends and family members. While other retirees prefer a small social gathering with only a couple of loved-ones. And like to keep work and private separate.

Also, as a host, make no mistake that the retirement party is for the retiree. They have to feel celebrated in a way that they feel most comfortable. So, don’t let your own preferences overrule the retiree’s wishes.

Celebration ideas:

  • Sunday Breakfast or Brunch
  • Lunch Party
  • Pool party
  • Picknick (in the park) Party
  • High Tea Party
  • Playing sports in the park
  • Backyard BBQ
  • Wine Tasting Party
  • Cocktail Party
  • Game Night
  • Dinner Party
  • Dinner and Dance Party
  • Just grab a drink
  • Dance party till late…

#3 Pick a date

Once you know what kind of retirement party you want to plan, you can select the date of the party. 

Tips for selecting the date:

  • Plan the party on a date that is very close to the actual retirement date. The further away, the less likely people will come.
  • Keep the guests in mind while planning the date of the retirement party. A weekday afternoon or evening only fits people who are retired as well. Or fits best to a corporate retirement party. Otherwise, the weekend is best to plan the retirement party.
  • Check if your preferred venue is available on that date.
  • Pick a date that doesn’t clash with important other events at work or within the circle of friends and family.

Read more: When To Throw A Retirement Party?

#4 Select venue

Next up is selecting the venue. You can host a retirement party on all sorts of locations: at home, restaurant, bar, office, function hall. It depends on your budget and the type of celebration which location you choose as the venue of the party.

If you don’t want the hassle at home, you can select a venue to host the party. But that’s probably more expensive. Or your home is too small to fit in the number of people you want to invite. So take the budget, the number of people you want to invite, and your preferences into consideration when selecting the venue. And check if the date you picked is available. 

Read more: Where Can I Celebrate My Retirement? Guide For Retirees

#5 Create a guest list

After you know the budget, the type of party, selected the venue and picked the date, you can start creating the guest list. And some people struggle with who to invite. So this is the most straightforward answer I can give you.

You base the guest list on the type of retirement party you’re planning: 

  • Corporate: invite all co-workers. A small company invites all co-workers from the office. A larger company only invites direct co-workers (from the department). 
  • Private: depending on the size and budget, you invite all the important people in the retiree’s life (family, friends, close co-workers). 

But to learn more about who to invite to your retirement party, you can read my article: Who To Invite To A Retirement Party: An Etiquette Guide.

#6 Choose a theme or dress code

You can host a retirement party with a fun theme or choose the appropriate dress code for the occasion. You can customize the invitation to the theme and mention the dress code in the invitation. So, guests know what to wear.

It depends on the type of retirement party if a fun theme is suitable. A Hawaii theme is probably not appropriate for a formal corporate retirement party. And perhaps the country club doesn’t want everyone dressing up as superheroes. Or maybe they do 😉 But that will be the exception of the rule.

So, take the location, guest list, and wishes of the retiree into consideration when selecting a suitable theme and dress code. 

Party Theme Ideas:

  • Back to the Birthyear of the retiree
  • Back to the starting year of retiree’s career
  • Back to the ’50s
  • Back to the ’60s
  • Back to the ’70s
  • Back to the ’80s
  • Back to the ’90s
  • Favorite hobby
  • Black and White Party (Everyone is black, and the retiree is white)
  • The first job of retiree’s
  • Travel the World
  • Summer
  • Winter
  • Autumn
  • Spring
  • Tropical
  • Dress as the retiree
  • Casino Party
  • Favorite Movie
  • Bohemian
  • Hawaii
  • Favorite Sports Team
  • Masquerade Ball
  • Western
  • Hollywood
  • Mardi Grass

Read more: 50+ Ideas For An Amazing Retirement Party

The most common dress codes:

  • White tie – Women: floor-length formal gown and gloves; hair is typically worn in an up-do. Men: suit with a vest and white bow tie.
  • Black tie – Women: floor-length formal gown. Men: suit with a black bow tie.
  • Lounge suit – Women: formal gown. Men: suit with a tie.
  • Cocktail – Women: an above-the-knee hem is appropriate, or an evening pantsuit. Men: suit, tie optional. 
  • Smart casual – Women: there are no rules. Flats or heels are acceptable. Men: jeans, chinos or suit pants with a shirt or dressed-up T-shirt; no ties. 

#7 Send out invitations

The next step is to send out the invitations. Preferably you want to send the invitations 3-4 weeks before the retirement party date. Or even earlier if you have planned a big party and want as many people to attend. And depending on the type of party, you can send out a paper invitation, an email invitation, or create a video invitation. 

Invitation Etiquette Tips:

  • Ask for RSVP so you can plan with the correct number of people.
  • Mention the dress code, so people know what to wear. 
  • Specify if the invitation includes a plus one.
  • Share the number of years that the retiree has worked. This helps your guests write their retirement card for the honoree.
  • If it’s the intention that others contribute to the party, make sure these arrangments are clear to all who are participating before you send out the invitation.
  • If there are specific arrangements included or excluded, mention this in the invitation. Make sure your guests are adequately informed.

Do you mention gifts in the invitation?

Some people say it’s not appropriate to mention gifts in the invitation. Their advice is to mention it only when you don’t want gifts. As a retiree who sends out the invitations, it can come across as a bit greedy to mention gifts. Therefore it’s best not to mention gifts or ask to donate to your favorite charity as an option. Or if someone RSVPs and ask about what to give, you can always suggest something. 

Another way to bypass it is to mention the retirement plans in the invitation along with other information like the amount of worked years, etc. So the guests have a bit more detailed information and come up with a great gift themselves.

If you host the party for someone else, you can add a gifting description, so guests know what kind of retirement gift to bring. And because you want to celebrate the retiree, it isn’t strange to mention or give a hint towards a great retirement gift. 

Overall, it’s customary to bring a gift for the retiree to a retirement party. But you can’t expect everyone to bring a gift. A close co-worker is more likely to bring a gift than someone who has worked with the retiree for only a couple of weeks or days.

Also, the type of retirement party influences gifting, as well. A card with best wishes is sufficient for a small and short gathering at the office. And a thoughtful or expensive gift is suitable for a close friend coming to a retirement (dinner) party. 

#8 Inventory on speeches or surprises

When the date of the retirement party is coming closer, you want to do an inventory on which people are planning to give a speech, toast, or have a surprise planned. This way, you can make a schedule and organize the essentials. For example, a good sound system with a microphone(s) for speeches and toasts and a beamer or TV screen for video surprises.

You can ask guests to let you know before a specific date if they have something arranged for the retiree. This way, you have enough time to plan and organize the necessities. And make sure you ask each group to help you with the inventory (co-workers, family, and friends). So, you don’t miss out on people. 

#9 Prepare a speech, toast or fun activity

As a host, it’s customary to do a speech or toast at the beginning of the party. This can be very small where you welcome the guests, honor the retiree, and let everyone know what to expect. 

Or, if you would like to honor the guest, even more, you can prepare a longer speech or organize a fun activity. Here are some ideas:

  • Hold a quiz about the retiree
  • Plan to roast the retiree (only appropriate if the retiree loves a bit of dark humor and is happy to retire)
  • Give a (longer) speech
  • Guess who it is: ask guests to bring a photo of themselves as a child. And hang it up somewhere, and everyone has to guess who it is. 
  • Bucket List: Let the guests fill a bucket with ideas for the retiree’s bucket list.
  • Play 30 seconds game; made-up version about the retiree.
  • Show a video of the retiree’s life/ career highlights
  • Show a video with messages from all the guests
  • Show a funny video made by guests: flashmob, music video to their favorite song, retirement movie trailer.

Read more: 13 Tips On How To Give The Best Retirement Speech

#10 Organize party extra’s 

If the budget allows it, you can organize finishing touches that make the party extra special. And here are some ideas you can organize:

  • Customized decorations: retiree’s photo on balloons, cake, etc.
  • Organize lawn games (giant Jenga, bean toss, corn hole, high striker)
  • Rent a photo booth with props
  • Rent a (slo-mo) video booth with props
  • Rent a karaoke machine
  • Rent an inflatable game or obstacle course
  • Create (personalized) party favors, so when guests leave the party, they bring a memory home.
  • Book a photographer or videographer
  • Fireworks

Read more: 30 Ideas To Make A Retirement Party Extra Special

#11 Get a thoughtful gift

As the host, you can present a thoughtful gift to the retiree at the party. You can do this with a group of guests and collect money or give a gift personally. 

And the best retirement gifts are thoughtful gifts down memory lane, for example: 

  • Scrapbook with a collection of personal messages, anecdotes, and photos from all the guests about favorite memories of the retiree. 
  • framed group photo
  • award (medal, plague)
  • customized piece of art

Other best retirement gifts are gifts that match the retiree’s plans for retirement, for example:

  • Give travel gear when the retiree’s has plans to travel in retirement.
  • Give gear that helps with his favorite hobby.
  • Give the most traditional gift for retirement: a watch. To symbolize the time. As a company: You gave your time to us, now we give you time. As a family member: To spend more time together. As a friend: Have the time of your life.

Read more: Top 15 Personalized Retirement Gifts 

#12 Do a last (sound) check

You’ve been working very hard to organize the best retirement party, so make sure you do an extra check before the party to know everything is set. 

Doing a sound or video check brings you less stress at the moment of the party. Because technology can abandon you from time to time, so make sure you’re prepared and did everything you could to make it perfect.

Check with the caterer if they didn’t forget something. Check with the restaurant if the number of people matches your list of people. Check how long the speeches will be of the person’s speech that night. I’m a perfectionist, so double-checking is my thing ;).

But also be aware that not everything will go according to your plan. And to be able to enjoy the party as well, you need to let go and attack problems when they occur and not worry about it too much beforehand. 

#13 Be a great host

You can organize the best retirement party ever, but if you act like a douchebag: people will remember that more than perfect organized details of the party. So be a great host at the party, and here’s a couple of tips to help you out.

Host Etiquette Tips:

  • A retirement party is a life celebration of the retiree. Let the attention go to the retiree, so they feel appreciated. 
  • Keep conversations positive and avoid talking about family or work-related problems at the party. 
  • Avoid burning bridges with co-workers and bosses at your retirement party. You want to stay away from anything that can harm your reputation or the company’s reputation. 
  • If the party is a formal event, it’s best to limit drinking too much alcohol. A drunk host at a formal event can be embarrassing. But if the party is intended for everyone to enjoy themselves: go ahead and let loose.
  • The host of the party should not expect or ask anyone to pay for her own meal. When you invite someone, you pay the bill. Unless, when it’s discussed beforehand and mentioned in the invitation. 
  • Give a (little) toast or speech to start the party, honor the retiree, and let the guests know what to expect. 
  • Try to socialize with as many people as you can. Don’t focus too much on one group of people, but spread your attention, so everyone feels included and welcomed.

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Kirsten Veldman

I'm Kirsten. In 2017, my boyfriend Léon, and I decided to retire from the rat race to travel the world and work and live location independently. With my articles, I want to help people enjoy and celebrate retirement in the best way possible.

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