Retirement is one of life’s major turning points, and it deserves a good sendoff. If an office colleague, significant other, or best friend is approaching his or her retirement date, get together with other friends or colleagues and plan a good retirement dinner to kick off the transition in style. If you do it right, it will be a memorable event for all involved.
Be sure to keep the guest of honor’s preferences in mind. If the retiree is a gregarious sort who socializes easily and enjoys being the center of attention, then you can plan a raucous affair with lots of toasts all around; if the retiree is more the quiet sort who usually prefers not being singled out, then a more low-key party would be more appropriate. You shouldn’t set out to embarrass the guest of honor — at least not excessively!
You can choose from a wide variety of venues. If you plan a small gathering, then book a large table or a few smaller tables at a favorite restaurant. If possible, find a restaurant that has rooms for private parties, so you’re not distracted by the establishment’s routine comings and goings. If you arrange for a set menu, you can save considerably on costs. Other low-key venues might include art galleries or historic buildings that rent out rooms. For a more outgoing affair, consider a country club or yacht club, or even a sports bar. Be sure to work out your budget carefully and determine how best to get guests to chip in on costs. One method is to sell tickets.
Since you will be commemorating the working life of your guest of honor, brainstorm with a few other close friends to formulate an overall theme to your dinner. You might want to decorate the venue with memorabilia, old photos, and tokens representative of the retiree’s special interests or hobbies. It’s a good idea to designate a master of ceremonies to keep the party rolling along. A good MC must of course be competent at working a crowd and quick with a joke; encourage other guests to prepare toasts, combining seriousness with good humor at the retiree’s expense. The MC should introduce each guest giving a toast, as well as any presentations of gifts, or gags, or skits worked out in advance or devised at the spur of the moment.
You might think about inviting a surprise guest — an old boss or work colleague whom the retiree hasn’t seen for years. Be sure the last parting wasn’t on ugly terms, or if so, that all is forgotten and forgiven; you don’t want to create serious awkwardness.
Also, work out whether you’ll present a gift, or several gifts, to the guest of honor. If all guests agree to chip in, you can purchase a single, expensive gift, such as airfare for the retiree and spouse to a favorite vacation destination. Otherwise, each guest can be responsible for bringing a smaller gift, whether a gag gift or something genuinely useful. Or, if the guest of honor is uncomfortable receiving others’ largesse, you can work out a gift to a favorite charity, after private consultation beforehand with the retiree’s spouse or partner.
Whether to have live music or other entertainment depends on the venue; a restaurant will limit your options, but a country club setting will allow you to hire a full band if you wish. Regardless of the venue, you should hire a photographer and/or videographer to record the event, or recruit a guest who is good with cameras to do so, if that guest is eager to take on the job. And be sure to put out a guest book, for everyone to sign and add a comment or two.
With a little careful planning, you’ll be sure to host a successful event and send your guest of honor off in style.