Retirement Party Etiquette

Etiquette in general has become more casual since the days when Emily Post ruled society. However, if you are planning to host a retirement party, plan to attend one, or know that you will be honored, there are still things to keep in mind about retirement party etiquette. No one wants to be embarrassed over a faux pas that could have been avoided.

Retirement parties should be a time for celebrating as the retiree is about to begin a new phase in his or her life. By following a few simple rules, your retirement party will be a memorable occasion for everyone.

Etiquette for the host/hostess

While etiquette tips for the host or hostess may be very similar to most other types of parties, there is one important thing to remember: this party is to honor the retiree and is not for you. Think carefully about this person and his or her likes and dislikes.

Would this person's personality prefer a small gathering or a larger one? If the person is shy, will a large group feel overwhelming?

Does the person enjoy formal parties, dinners or prefer a more casual luncheon?

If you want to use a theme for your retirement party, pick one to match your retiree's tastes.

Choose a location that's convenient for your guest of honor and any family members who will be attending. Many retirement parties are held at office locations or at the home of the host or hostess. Restaurants and country clubs are also popular, but don't rule out creative locations like a winery, especially if your retiree is a wine connoisseur.

Get the invitations mailed early, at least two to three weeks before the date. Consult the retiree about the guest list unless it's a surprise party; otherwise, speak with the spouse, relatives, close friends, and any significant coworkers. The invitation should include: dress attire, party theme, and whether or not to dress for the theme. Also noted should be whether or not gifts are expected. If you do not want guests to bring gifts, make that clear on the invitation.

Etiquette for the guests

Basic common sense prevails for all guests. Honor the instructions on the invitation and dress appropriately. Arrive with an upbeat attitude and avoid talking about work-related problems or any issues from the past that involve the retiree.

Remember, the retirement party is about honoring the retiree. This is not an opportunity for you to further your career, talk too much about yourself, or pursue your own agenda. In other words, have a good time, but keep your wits about yourself.

Etiquette for the retiree

Common sense also applies to the retiree. You should also dress appropriately and avoid drinking too much alcohol. You want to remember the happy occasion and not wake up the next day with any regrets. Be gracious to everyone, even if you are tempted to burn a few bridges.

If appropriate, offer a short thank-you speech recognizing your coworkers, company representatives, friends and family who have taken the time to attend. If gifts are given, try to thank everyone in person at the party and follow up later with a hand-written note. Don't forget your retirement party hosts and all the time they spent making this a happy memory.

If you follow these simple tips about retirement party etiquette, the photos from this special occasion will still bring a smile to your face when you view them years later in a photo album.

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