A group of active adults raising their glasses at a dinner party

You've put in the hard work, and now it's time to celebrate!

Odds are if you’ve landed on 55Places.com, you or someone you know is getting close to retirement. Congratulations! That’s certainly something worth celebrating, and what better way than to throw a retirement party.

We’ve come up with several points to consider along with a few retirement party ideas to help get you thinking about one of life’s most satisfying celebrations. Before you start thinking about a theme and visiting food magazine websites for recipes, let’s start at the beginning.

The Guest List

The typical retirement party is much often significantly larger than your average birthday or holiday party. Think of all of the people you’ve met during your professional career: colleagues, mentors, account representatives, support staff, and many more. These might be people who have worked alongside you or others that you’ve met in your industry at conventions, trade shows, and symposiums. There are also friends, family, and neighbors outside of work who would surely like to be part of your special day too.

If you're planning the party for yourself, this makes things a bit easier, and you’ll be able to vet the list before sending outside the invites. If you're planning a party for your spouse, colleagues, or family member, this might not be the best time for a surprise party. Run the list by the soon-to-be retiree, or if it must be a surprise party, try to glean guest-list tips from close friends and co-workers.

The Venue

Keeping in mind this will be a larger party, consider your choice of venue carefully. Look for larger spaces like a church hall or banquet room. If the person retiring is an avid golfer, look for an event-space at their favorite course as they often have halls suitable for large gatherings. If you live in a 55+ community or neighborhood with a clubhouse, this could be an ideal venue.

When trying to keep the festivities to a more modest budget, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like a BBQ on a warm spring or summer day. When looking at outdoor venues, keep in mind the weather might not always cooperate. Find a space with a picnic shelter or indoor facilities just in case.

A favorite restaurant of the retiree is another surefire win too. This takes some of the pressure off when it comes to food preparation. Just be sure that if alcohol is served to arrange for light bites and coffee near the end of the gathering. It's also becoming common at weddings and other boozy celebrations to pre-pay for rideshares or taxis for guests. This gives you the peace of mind that everyone will be getting home safe.

You might also consider a smaller, more intimate party. Destination retirement parties are increasingly common and can be anything from a lakeside retreat to a shared vacation with close friends and family. Large vacation rentals that can accommodate 20 or more people are common in many popular resort areas, and they're a great idea for your celebration. A group hunting or fishing trip is also something few outdoors lovers would turn down.

Retirement Party Ideas

Now that you have the guest list and venue sorted out, it's time to figure out what to do on the big day. It's good to have some structure everyone can share in as it's likely many guests may not have met before. This doesn’t have to be anything terribly formal as most retirement parties are lighthearted affairs celebrating the retiree’s life of work.

In keeping with the lighthearted vibe, many parties also involve a fair amount of good-natured ribbing of the retiree. Often times speeches center around this theme, with colleagues and families recalling humorous events or even poking a bit of fun at the retiree’s age. In some cases, this can veer into something of a roast. If you’re planning your own party, you might want to be careful as to who you invite to speak for this very reason. If you’re planning for a loved one or colleague to make a toast, be sure to let them know if any topics are off-limits. This is supposed to be fun and not mean-spirited.

If the tone is decidedly more serious, say for a retiring law enforcement official or clergy member, it might be more appropriate to focus on the retiree’s accomplishments. This is especially true in jobs that involve public service. That said, don’t shy away from a laugh or two. After all, the person is leaving their job and embarking a new chapter of their life. Looking to the future in any speeches or public presentations is a smart move.

Funny gifts or retirement games always go over well too; you could consider something like an alarm-clock shot-put (with the proper safety precautions, of course). As for gifts, the gold watch as a retirement gift is going a bit out of style so turn to Instagram and Pinterest for ideas. An especially clever idea is turning soon-to-be-retired neckties into a quilt. A quirky engraved glass (“You can’t make me. I’m retired!”) or a gag gift like an ear-horn are also good for a laugh.

Moving On 

If you’ve invited all of these people, then it's pretty likely you’d like to keep in touch with them after you move on from the workforce. Printing up a (hopefully last) set of business cards with your personal email address, mailing address, or Facebook page is a great way to encourage your friends and colleagues to keep in touch after you’ve moved on. This is especially worthwhile if you’re planning on moving or traveling extensively after retirement. 

You could also set up a website or blog to document your activities and travels in retirement. It's a valuable chance to learn a new skill, and it will encourage friends and colleagues you may have left behind to stay in touch. You could also use it to highlight your new lifestyle and, if so inclined, to rub it in a little.

Retirement parties are a time-honored tradition that not only celebrates a life of work but also looks towards a future of leisure and exploration. Use these retirement party ideas as a jumping-off point to create your own unique party that will be one to remember!