6 Ideas for Throwing a Great Office Retirement Party

Overhead view friends toasting
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When the time comes for a beloved co-worker to retire, you want to send that person out in style. Every office has different traditions and guidelines for retirement parties, but the idea of showing gratitude is consistent across the board. 

The guest of honor is the highlight, and depending on their personality, you will need to plan each party differently. You will want to present memories of their time with the company but more importantly, the time they shared with other employees.

Co-Worker Stories

If you have a close-knit group, finding volunteers to share their favorite memories of the honoree should be easy. You can create a “roast format” where each person tells a funny story at the retiree's expense, or keep things more formal with appreciation stories.

Picture Slides

It might seem like a chore to gather 20 to 40 photos of the honoree, but the smiles and laughs make it all worthwhile. Looking back at the younger days of friends and how the world around you has changed is fun. Newer employees also gain a sense of company history through the images, appreciating the loyalty and sendoff. Don’t forget to look through the company archives if you run short on pictures. You might be able to find old brochures or advertisements that bring back good memories.


Several game ideas can keep the party moving. Make a slideshow trivia game with images of pop culture references that date back to when the retiree was first hired. If it was decades ago and the retiree has a good sense of humor, have some fun with it. Attendees can try to guess what each picture is and win prizes. Another fun guessing game involves reading quotes, sayings, or stories about the guest of honor and asking co-workers to name the who, what, and where of each one.

Video Collaborations

For video collaborations, designate some to record the message on their smartphone. This ensures quality and cohesion in the final video since not all smartphones are created equal. In a private area weeks before the party, ask coworkers to record a 2-minute farewell message to the retiree. Someone in the company is bound to be technologically inclined, and they should have no problem compiling the farewell messages of coworkers into a single video with transitions and music. The video can be played after the luncheon or during dessert. The best part is that the honoree gets to keep the video as a keepsake long after they have departed.

Invite Old Friends

Because occasions like this are designed to look back on an individual’s career, it makes sense to invite former employees who were with them in the beginning. Think back to all the people who worked closely with the retiree. Did they have a favorite secretary, manager, or subordinate who can join in the celebration? Spouses and children might also be applicable if the family is close to the company. Unfortunately, not all employees leave on good terms, so run a list of former employees past senior management to avoid any awkward situations.

Retirement Gifts

The best way to handle retirement gifts is to have everyone donate to a general fund so that you can afford to buy something memorable. There are endless choices for what to give, but it really should be a leisure gift. Clocks and desk ornaments are okay, but the better choice is something the guest of honor can use during retirement. For people who can’t resist a gag gift, make it small and don’t let it be a substitute for your share of the group gift.

Most people would prefer a fun office party over a formal retirement celebration. The latter can end up more like a funeral if the situation isn’t balanced well. And while retirement is an achievement, many retirees would rather deflect the spotlight away from growing older and on to something more entertaining.​​ Use good judgment, but sometimes a little initial awkwardness can ultimately make for an exceptional party.