Someone once said, “Retirement is not the end of the road. It is the beginning of the open highway.” If the career of someone you know is approaching its end, not in the apocalyptic, end-of-the-world sense or in a gloomy end-of-the-line way, but in a celebrating the end of waking up to the panic-inducing sound of an alarm, drinking too much coffee and at times holding your breath until the weekend kind of way, let’s mark the occasion with a party.
UNDERSTAND THE PLAN
There are things in life that can be left to chance, but if you have ever done that at a drive-thru and opened the bag to find someone else’s order as you drove away, you know it is probably best to plan and stay on top of whatever plans you do make.
If you are planning a retirement party for someone, answering some key questions should help in the planning process. These questions include: What position is this individual retiring from? How many years was he or she with the company? What is he or she passionate about and how might that factor in to long-term plans and goals after retirement? Who are his or her favorite coworkers?
One of the first things to figure out is the budget. The budget for the party will include food, drinks, decorations, rentals, gifts and entertainment. The location of your party is also a big factor in your budget.
If you are having the retirement party at work, you can accomplish it with a pretty modest budget. If cost is a concern, you can even ask other employees to bring a dish for a potluck. Some of the employees might grumble and a few might even fail to bring anything other than some paper plates or plastic picnic-ware, but it is a way to still have a party even if you are all broke and your workplace is cheap.
When you are working within a budget and planning a retirement party away from the office, compare prices for locations and caterers to find the best deals. Look for ways of cutting costs. For example, if you are having the retirement party at a restaurant, consider doing it during lunch instead of dinner to decrease the cost.
If you are cutting costs, consider downsizing the dessert first. Most guests don’t eat much dessert and a lot of it gets tossed, so don’t get too elaborate or extravagant with dessert. The garbage can doesn’t care if it is being fed decadent turtle cheesecake or a sugary store-bought cake.
In fact, if anyone fancies themselves a baker, let them handle the cake, cookies or cupcakes. Extra points if they can make dessert look like the person retiring. Just make sure the depiction isn’t too unsightly to where it becomes an insult. There is a thin line between funny and insulting sometimes.
Your budget will also determine how large the guest list will be. Even if you can afford a lavish affair, this is only necessary if the person enjoys these types of celebrations. If your retiree is quiet and a bit shy, he or she will likely prefer a more intimate gathering with only close friends and coworkers.
Regarding the guest list, if the retiree has worked for the company for a long time, there are probably some people who have already retired that the person would enjoy having present at the party. Make sure you get the permission of human resources prior to sending out any invitations, but don’t completely overlook these people when you begin planning who to invite.
Part of your budget should be for decorations. Decorations can easily be chosen by those who know the retiree best. Often, the end of the career that is prompting the retirement may be the start of a new one or the start of a time of travel, leisure, hobbies or even volunteer work. Let those sorts of personal details inspire the decorations.
When it comes to decorations, fresh flowers are the perfect way to bring beauty and festivity to any party. Let our florists at Conroy's Flowers Beverly Hills in Beverly Hills, CA design the perfect bouquet to mark the occasion.
Think of the retiree and what hobbies he or she enjoys. If you are uncertain, ask those closest to the guest of honor. Make the hobby or activity the person enjoys most the theme of your party.
Same rules apply to the guest list. What sort of crowd will be present for the party? While the guest of honor is the most important person to please, you want to create a party atmosphere that everyone can enjoy.
When you are deciding who to invite, mix the guest of honor’s work colleagues with his or her friends and family. Don’t forget to include associates from past positions and other professional acquaintances like vendors or salespeople.
It is a nice gesture to trace the career of the retiree with a video or photo collage that can be playing in the background at the party. Speeches are also a touching way to send someone off to their next adventure with a tribute of some kind words and good memories to accompany them on their travels.
If you would like guests who are attending the party to make a speech, let them know in advance. You can even ask on invitations so they can plan their speeches accordingly. Speeches can be made by bosses, employees, friends and family.
Over the course of a long career, people sometimes move and relocate. If there are some individuals who are unable to attend, ask them to record a video to show during the retirement party.
The last part of the planning process should involve deciding on a gift, and this is not the time to be cheap, especially if this person has been a valued and trusted employee for a substantial amount of time. If you are giving gifts individually, choose a gift for the person that he or she will truly enjoy.
Since the retiree will now have more time to devote to hobbies, a gift to coincide with a hobby like a new golf club, fishing pole, paints, etc., will be appreciated. A weekend vacation paid for either by the company or employees is also great way to send a retiree off into the world.
If the retiree does have traveling plans, travel pillows, sunscreen and fun, tropical-themed gifts could get them ready for their tropical retreat from the daily grind.
If you are looking to get one large gift provided by the group, a cruise or plane tickets would likely be appreciated by retirees who are looking forward to traveling. For retirees who are passionate about certain causes or nonprofit organizations, a large charitable donation might be a more meaningful way to show them that they are appreciated.
AN EXCUSE TO CUT LOOSE
Once you have your plan established, it is party time! If you are planning to make it a surprise, have someone pre-selected to get the person to your party location without making the retiree suspicious. Don’t choose the person who can’t keep secrets for this role.
In fact, don’t choose the person who can’t keep secrets for any role.
Activities can be simple. For instance, grab a bucket and provide employees with small pieces of paper and a writing utensil, so they can add ideas for the retiree to put on a “bucket list.” These can be read aloud at the party.
Slideshows, funny PowerPoint presentations, an autograph book and toasts are interactive ways to show the retiree how much he or she is appreciated and conveys how individual projects, specific quirks and memorable moments are remembered fondly by bosses and colleagues.
A retirement party should be an excuse to cut loose. What could be better than getting everyone on the dance floor? No Wallflowers are aloud! Fun playlists for the retirement party crowd can include “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, “Working Nine to Five” by Dolly Parton, “We Gotta Get Out of this Place” by the Animals, “Take this Job and Shove It” by Johnny Paycheck, and for those retirees planning to flee the scene, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
A fun way to celebrate the memorable moments spent with the retiree is to have everyone write down interesting stories that they can then share.
A great game involves providing a cheap alarm clock that the retiree can smash with a hammer. Make sure to place the alarm clock in a cloth bag or pillowcase to prevent any shrapnel from flying.
If the retiree has a good sense of humor, consider having a roast. For ideas, watch some comedy roasts of famous people, but try to keep it lighthearted and fun without getting as dirty or improper as some of the comedians or celebrities. After all, we want to celebrate someone getting retired, not someone getting fired.
Make a game of how well everyone knows the retiree. Gather facts about the retiree including family stories, hobbies, favorite foods, vacation spots, school life, places lived, famous friends, pets and other details that can be mixed in with false info. Divide guests into two groups who can then compete against one another.
No matter what activities or games you decide to make part of the retirement party arrangements, it is a good idea to have a program in place to prevent the party from becoming stagnant or even a bit melancholy. However, the schedule should not be overly rigid. It is a party and shouldn’t feel like work.
There are many helpful and inspiring books written about retirement. Consider getting coworkers to all chip in to purchase a few books to help the new retiree ease into their well-earned life of leisure.
It is necessary to mention that human beings sometimes place too much importance on occupation because this attitude can negatively impact one’s impression of an upcoming retirement. If the retiree is one of these people, retirement may be daunting or even slightly unnerving. It can help the transition to make the party more about who they are instead of what they did.
Commemorate the career that is ending but also celebrate the future and what it will mean for the person who is retiring.
FIVE O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE - NO LONGER APPLIES
Once the party is over and the excitement wears off, the retiree is facing a long period of time without the familiar routine that has long been a part of his or her life. This can be difficult at first, so let the retiree know you are still there. It doesn’t matter if you are just a friend, a colleague or even a family member or spouse.
If you notice the retiree seems apprehensive or disappointed, talking can help lead them to a path of fulfillment. Ask the retiree if he or she desires a retirement consisting of adventure and travel or relaxation and hobbies around the house.
Encourage the retiree to make a list of activities and experiences he or she would like to have now that time is on their side. If you are the spouse, discuss the retirement and recognize that you both may have different views on what happiness in retirement means, so some compromise may be necessary.
If you are not a spouse or relative, keep in contact with the retiree. Once the initial excitement and first few trips are over, the retiree may start to feel tired of being retired. Help him or her figure out what to do to stay interested and engaged.
No matter what, communicate to the newly retired individual that retirement is not the end and encourage the pursuit of things he or she feels passionate about.
A retirement party is a rite of passage, so planning it should be regarded as an honor and a chance to wish someone well in a memorable way.
The party should seek to reflect the best attributes of the retiree. It should capture the spirit of the individual. While highlighting past accomplishments is crucial for this sort of event, make sure that the party can also celebrate the future for the retiree. Retiring shouldn’t be tiring, so get the party started and keep the party going...