Essential Checklist For Planning The Most Memorable Retirement Party
Putting on a shindig for any occasion can seem like a lot of fun. Truth is, doing so can actually add up to a lot of planning and work, as well as expense. The bigger the party, the more planning involved and the cost of such an event can skyrocket.
This is no doubt the case for a retirement party. Unless the party is going to be low-key and basically no more than a glorified lunch between a handful of co-workers, it will take some serious time to plan.
This article is intended to help you start thinking about what will go into planning and successfully pulling off such an endeavor.
There are 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every single day, according to AARP – WOW.
They predict this is going to continue for some time to come, projected well into the next decade. For perspective, that’s seven boomers turning age 65 every minute.
That equates to a whole lot of people entering the retirement stage of their life. And that leads to a whole bunch of retirement parties.
One day you will probably have your own retirement party, likely planned by others to show their appreciation for you and to express their well wishes as you ride off into your golden years.
For now, you may be contemplating putting together such a party for a co-worker, or even a family member or friend getting ready to retire.
Whatever the case, it will take some time and serious effort to pull it off successfully , ensuring the individual being honored ends up having a wonderful party that celebrates their transition to retirement.
We’re here to help provide ideas of what will be entailed and things you should consider in putting together a successful retirement party.
Start the process
Just as with any kind of event, planning is the key to ensuring it will be something attendees are glad they attended.
And let’s face it, no one wants to throw a party that everyone ends up sneaking out of – one that goes down in history as a dud.
With a retirement party, this is more so the case. It’s not like a birthday where you can get it right next time, as a retiree will presumably only retire once.
And depending upon how big you are thinking, there could be a fair number of people attending…including co-workers and even some executives. A poorly organized party could even hurt your standing with your boss and co-workers.
So, prepare, prepare, prepare. And start doing so early.
To cover all the bases will take lots of time. From starting with determining who should be invited, notifying guests, and deciding on venue and theme, to food menu, music, entertainment and games, and much more.
Obviously this will take some serious time commitment on the part of one or more people, so you might want to set this up as a project and bring in a number of people who you think would want to participate and excel at being a part of a planning group.
At this stage you need to consider some general parameters for the event itself. The party should last two to three hours. This allows plenty of mingle time, as well as opportunity for speeches and toasts, eating, participating in some fun, etc. Importantly, it won’t leave a bunch of dead time where peeps look at their watches and try to determine how quickly they can hit the exits without seeming rude.
However you go about setting the planning process in motion, a memorable retirement party will probably take at least a few months to pull off successfully, so be sure to give yourself time.
(Note – for this article we focus on a medium to larger-sized party with more going on versus smaller, informal parties)
Put together an attendee list
This is the logical first step as it will drive many of the decisions for the event.
A party of three or four is much different than one for 20, 30, 50, 100 guests, and more. You definitely want to consider what the retiree would want in terms of headcount.
When going about compiling the list, be sure to consider reaching out to family, friends, co-workers (including company execs), and even vendors and key customers who’ve worked with the retiree.
Regarding family, friends and others the retiree might want invited, you can ask them directly, unless this is to be a surprise. Or you can ask a spouse/partner or adult child, or a co-worker who is particularly close.
Armed with the attendee list, you can get going on the meat of the planning.
It’s a date
Choosing a date for such an event is no easy task. All of your potential attendees have busy lives, so date selection will be tough. The more attendees, the tougher it will be to set a date that satisfies a larger percentage of the potential guests.
Going in, expect a fair number of peeps won’t be able to make it. The time of year, time of day (or evening), day of week, and more, will all go into the decision regarding the date of the party. This will even impact where the party is to be held.
Choose a spot
Now that you have an idea of how big the party will probably be, it’s time to decide where the event will be held. The obvious choices are the following:
- At the office, which could include a lunchroom or main work area if big enough, or a conference room large enough to accommodate
- At a nearby restaurant that can be rented out or that has a banquet/party room for private party events
- Nearby hotel – they will likely have a selection of banquet/conference rooms you could select from to accommodate your group
- Local church or a recreational center
- The home of a co-worker, family member or friend of the retiree with a house large enough to accommodate the group
- At a nearby beach, lake, park/picnic spot
Keep in mind you will probably want to decorate and set up special areas (addressed shortly), as well as have food and beverages, and possibly seats and tables, so you need to be certain there’s enough room for what you are planning.
If you do decide to use a space at a hotel, restaurant or other public venue, they can probably advise you on the size of the space needed, based on your plans.
Be sure to get going on the venue selection task once you have your attendee list, as often spaces get booked well in advance. Insuring there is space available is critical, and actually might impact the date you are planning the event.
You don’t have to be Walt Disney creating a theme park to get this right. What you do need to do is be a little creative and open-minded when it comes to exploring options for a theme-driven retirement party.
That said, a theme for the party is by no means a must. If it’s too much time, money and effort, or if the retiree won’t want or appreciate it, then don’t go that route. Keep in mind that a theme party in-and-of-itself can make a huge difference in terms of the fun to be had by many of the attendees.
If you go the theme party route it will definitely influence the decisions on food, party favors, events, music, and more.
There’s obviously a ton of options with the theme. Here are but a few:
- Favorite hobby or activity of the retiree (fine line to balance as the party is for the retiree, but you want everyone to have an enjoyable time)
- Setting or place, such as a beach or lake, Hawaiian theme (everyone wearing Hawaiian shirts, hula dresses), etc.
- Special locale (favorite spot of retiree)
- Sport – golf, baseball, etc.
- Nostalgic era – 60s, 70s, 80s, etc. Can be tied to music, movies, shows or even trends from an era the retiree has an affinity for
- Foodie (food samplings from across US or globally)
- Costume – targeted to cool or favorite shows (Sopranos, Breaking Bad, ER, Downton Abbey, etc.), period themes (prohibition speak easy party), etc.
- And more
Don’t forget the decorations, from table bunting, banners and Happy Retirement signage to items that fit in with your theme and serve to liven up the room and create a fun atmosphere – the more creative the better.
Send out invites
Once you have your attendee list, event date, venue and theme decided upon, you need to determine how you will announce the retirement party and invite people. This can take the form of a simple text email, an elaborate electronic invitation, traditional paper cards, or even a video.
Whatever form you decide upon, the logistics can be somewhat daunting and time consuming. Rather than doing all the work manually, you might want to enlist any number of online services that specialize in event announcements. They can provide templates or customized invitation cards or videos, manage the delivery process, monitor who has opened their invitation and provide RSVP tracking.
Going this route will ultimately save you much time and frustration, and probably save money.
Plan your menu
This is an important decision that will have a big impact on the overall success of the party. Go with cheap-rate eats and everyone looks for the door early, but if you decide on filet and lobster, you’ll likely break the budget.
Choosing an array of foods might be the best bet in terms of satisfying a larger group of guests with diverse tastes. You can set up different tables that can inexpensively fit the bill, such as finger or regular sandwiches, fondue, tacos, BBQ, fruit, delectable finger treats (Swedish meatballs, stuffed wontons, etc.), deserts, and much more.
If doing a theme party, then plan according to the theme. An example would be a Hawaiian theme party featuring a Lūʻau, complete with poi, kālua puaʻa (kālua pig), poke, lomi salmon, and other traditional island goodies.
While some might consider it cheesy to do so, there is always the pot luck route. No, you don’t want 15 tuna or pasta casseroles, but if coordinated properly you can end up with a nice array of items that can satisfy just about everyone.
Other considerations to keep in mind regarding the menu:
- Cake: You’ll also want to plan for a cake. Think of the like a wedding cake. Big enough that all guests can get a small slice, which might mean a LARGE cake, or a main cake and side cakes, depending on the number of attendees. Always more fun to dress it up some
- Beverages: Don’t leave them dry. From bottled waters (flat and sparkling), juices, iced tea, sodas, wine, beer and liquor for mixed drinks, you have to quench their thurst
- Accompanying items: We’re talking plateware, flatware, paper/cloth ware, glassware, tables, chairs, condiments, etc. Goes without saying you are going to have to arrange for something to eat on and to drink with. Basically all the things that normally go into serving food and beverages at any party must be purchased and/or rented, which can add to the bill considerable.
An important note on the food/menu planning side is considering bringing in a caterer or utilizing the staff of the selected venue. They will supply most of what you need and even attend to the cleaning thereafter.
If possible, work with one dedicated person (hotel food and beverage manager, general manager at a restaurant or the catering manager or owner), which centralizes planning and gives you a better opportunity to negotiate pricing.
When it comes to “Keeping them happy” at the party, you definitely will need to keep them entertained. This can range from simple to elaborate.
One key area will be the music. It can be a general assortment or a particular style (jazz, country, blues, etc.), or that comes from a specific period. Or it can match your theme.
You should plan a playlist and have a cd or audio file created containing all the music you’ve decided upon. A better idea might be to hire a DJ who will provide the music requested and can also act as the emcee or guess host for the event.
Included in your playlist should be a number of fun, retirement-oriented songs that the retiree and most guests will get a kick out of. Some examples include:
- “The Best is Yet to Come” by Frank Sinatra
- “My Way” by Frank Sinatra
- “I’m Free” by Rolling Stones
- “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
- “Take this Job and Shove It” by Johnny Paycheck
- “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton
- “Take it Easy” by The Eagles
If you do go the DJ route, you might as well ensure there’s some dance space. Heck, if you want to really make it wild (corny for others), rent a disco ball and let everyone “dance the night away,” as it were.
Karaoke anyone? Yikessssss. This is an idea that could run off some people, but it’s actually sorta funny watching others make fools of themselves, so it can be a fun addition to a party.
Aside from the music, you can arrange for party favors tied to your theme, as well as games (in different areas of the room) where attendees can play cards, charades, participate in limbo, etc. A Piñata that goes with the theme or a hobby of the retiree would be a unique touch.
And while we all get tired of too many speeches at an event, you should plan for at least a couple from important people in the eyes of the retiree. This can include an executive from the company, a few key co-workers (including a direct supervisor who really appreciated them), a spouse/partner or other family member, and even the guest of honor.
To keep it entertaining and not get too bogged down in sentimental STUFF, be sure to build in some time at different stages of the event to allow some close friends and co-workers to share a quick anecdote (preferably lighthearted/funny) about the retiree.
Other items or ideas you might also want to consider including:
Guest book – a guest book for everyone to sign into. Can sound a bit corny, but it’s all about memories and the fact that people took time out to honor the retiree. It will end up being a memento or keepsake from their party.
Memory wall – filled with pics of the guest of honor. Can range from pics of their younger years all the way through those spent in the workplace, including those with co-workers. You might even want to consider asking attendees to write short notes and/or provide pictures they have that would be suitable to pin on the wall or place on a small accompanying table.
Gift table – many guests will inevitably want to give the retiree a retirement gift and/or a card, so make it easy and intuitive in terms of where to leave such items by setting up a larger table where they can do so.
Photo booth – this can be rented and is often a popular party feature with peeps…especially if they’ve had one or two drinks…
Looping video or slideshow – much like a memory wall, but even more visual and can serve as a great background to the event in general. Should feature any array of images of the retiree, including some from work and with coworkers. It can also include short clips from co-workers. This is definitely labor intensive, so you will need to get on it quickly in the overall process and you may need to enlist someone in the company capable of putting together a video or slideshow.
Giftbag – a nice touch that can be funny and thoughtful at the same time is a bag of swag related to retirement. Not to be confused with retirement gifts, this would be a limited number of smallish items that can fit in a bag. Be sure to carve out some time where the retiree can open the gifts in the bag in front of everyone, which should provide some levity and laughs at the party.
Electronic message from those unable to attend – this will take some leg work. When sending invitations you can ask for those unable to attend to email back a quick message (text, image or both) that can be inserted into a slideshow that loops throughout the ceremony.
As has been made abundantly clear, planning and pulling off a successful retirement party is no easy feat. It will take some serious time, so you need to start early in order to cover the bases.
Start early and have a great plan….
Hmmm, that sounds much like the best available advice when it comes to retirement. Given you are thinking about a retirement party, you might want to take a bit of time to ensure you are adequately prepared for your own retirement.
Fact is retirement is much more complicated than planning a party. There are many issues and pitfalls that can trip up anyone when it comes to retirement.
Oak Harvest can work with you to address these complicated issues.
We’ll build a holistic, comprehensive retirement plan addressing your income in retirement, as well as all other relevant issues, utilizing strategies that cover taxes, income, spending, healthcare, legacy, and more, customized to your family’s specific needs.
A plan created with the goal of ensuring you have the best opportunity of living out the retirement you and your spouse envision.
Let Us Help You Achieve the Retirement You Deserve!
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