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How to Throw the Best Surprise Retirement Party

I have shared many posts about all of the fun and festivities we have had at school over the years. As work at the school has come to an end for me, I want to share how to throw the BEST surprise retirement party – from the recipient’s point of view (me)!

Collage of retirement party images: Decorations with "Congrats" and "Traitor" balloons, framed photos, and food. One table features a DIY Nacho Bar. Another holds egg and bacon cupcakes. Guests are seen enjoying the party. Caption reads, "The Best Surprise Retirement Party!" Visit our website for more details.

Obviously I was not in on the planning of my surprise retirement party, but I definitely got to see the results. Although there are things I probably know nothing about, we have had so many parties, events, and festivities in our offices that I can say with certainty how most of the planning went.

The Initial Planning – Who are the Planners?

Three women in cheerful poses stand in front of a wall decorated with QR codes and small American flags, celebrating a retirement party. One points to the codes, another slightly waves, and the third woman smiles broadly. They appear to be in an office or classroom setting.

I will be the first to admit that I am not good at party planning! Luckily we have two other ladies (Mel & Rachel) in our office who are great party and event planners! You should see it when the rest of us are trying to plan for the two of them – crickets on any ideas!

The first step needs to be figuring out who the party planners are in the group and let them run with it. Everyone can help brainstorm ideas, but let the party planners do their thing.

Once our planners have gotten a good feel for where they are going, they usually put together a Google Form with a sign-up for everyone. This is a great way to let everyone see a live document of who is bringing what, so things are not left out, and there are no duplicates.

Things to Plan

  • Date and Time – Plan the date and time in advance and let everyone know early enough to get it on their calendars.
  • The Party Invitation – Virtual calendar invites are so convenient, because the event will be added to everyone’s calendar when they accept it.
  • Have a False Plan – This was an easy one for my office, because they also wanted to have an early surprise birthday party for one of the ladies whose birthday is on July 4th. They told me that we were celebrating her, and they told her they were celebrating me.
  • Guest List – Besides all of the people who work together, think about and invite family members of the retiree. I have to say that this was probably the biggest surprise! When we had the end of the year district convocation, my daughter kept asking me if she could go – that was a no! When I saw my family walk into the office, I nearly fell over. Rachel found my husband and daughter on Facebook and added them to the guest list. Use your resources!

  • Retirement Party Theme – One day I had a conversation with Mel about how much I loved bacon, so they did a Bacon/Breakfast party theme. The options are endless.
  • Party Decorations – Besides the fact that they know me, they listened to me talk about my favorite colors (Pink & Gray, and Rose Gold). That is how they decorated. (On a side note, you have to find the right time to decorate without the guest of honor being there. As I think back, the afternoon before this surprise party, I worked late. Mel stayed until after I left. Of course they could have decorated first thing in the morning – everyone would always beat me there.)
  • Food – Plan the food according to the retirement party theme.

More About the Decorations – Adding a Personal Touch

As I mentioned, they chose some of my favorite colors, but they also chose cute little sarcastic remarked balloons and banners.

They had retirement plates, utensils, and napkins in the rose gold color. They set up a photo booth with those colors, and put up a poster of me with a rose gold crown on my head.😂

Party Themed Food

You would not believe all of the food they served at this surprise retirement party! Going with the main course (bacon), everyone brought breakfast food. There was actually so much food that they had to set it up in two rooms!

  • Bacon – lots of it
  • Sausage
  • Eggs (Scrambled and Hard Boiled)
  • Breakfast Burritos
  • Biscuits and Gravy
  • Bagels
  • Pastries
  • Donuts
  • Variety of Fruit
  • Different Jellies and Syrup
  • Juice, Coffee, and Water

AND… You could always do a retirement cake, but they did my favorite –

  • Catherine’s homemade/decorated sugar cookies! She makes a variety of cookies, but for this day, she made lots of the plain sugar cookies because they are my favorite! They were also decorated in my favorite pink and gray color scheme.

The cutest ones were the “Bacon and Egg” cookies. They actually had bacon and maple syrup in the cookies.

A plate of cookies, perfect for a retirement party, is decorated to look like bacon and eggs. The cookies are frosted with pink and white icing for the bacon and white icing with a yellow center for the eggs. The plate sits on a foil-covered surface alongside other festive cookies.

Other Thoughts and Ideas

They really put so much thought and planning into this surprise retirement party, that I will probably leave something out. They seemed to have thought of everything! Here are a few other ideas they had:

  • Other gifts besides the amazing party and cookies! Not pictured are cards, cash, and Starbucks gift cards!
  • A slide show playing on the TV with fond memories of some of the times we had together.
  • A prayer (from my husband) as we all gathered together to eat. It has been wonderful to work with other believers.

  • Lots of Love and Friendship – the best thing! I have been blessed beyond words to work with these amazing people! They truly are close friends, not just work acquaintances or team members. I don’t know if this is rare or not, but we are a work family!

Retirement Party Products

These are not the exact products that they found, but they are as close as I could find. They come in just about all colors!


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Other Ideas for a Retirement Party

  • Retirement Party Games (Some people love these. I am not into this at all, so I am glad they didn’t plan any games.)
  • Serve Finger Foods.
  • Have a Formal Luncheon.
  • If you don’t have a TV for a slide show, you could have a picture wall.
  • Have Live Entertainment.
  • Have the party at a nearby park (unless you are in Texas in the summer).
  • For people who work online, have a virtual retirement party:
    • Online Games
    • Take a Virtual Trip from their bucket list.

I will tell you that I am normally not real big on surprise parties for myself. This one was truly a surprise, but it was the perfect way to celebrate a major milestone in my life with my family members and some of my closest friends. It was such a festive atmosphere, even in my shocked and emotional state. It was not just a good retirement party, it was the best!

I hope my friends’ experience on how to throw the best surprise retirement party will help you plan your next party. Think of the best ways to celebrate the years of hard work, your friendships together, and any future plans.

As for me, they sent me off in style to have a happy retirement!

A special thanks goes out to everyone in the office: Meredith, Catherine, Emily, Rachel, Mel, and Sarah. – To the front office: Stephanie, Ms. Luna, Suzy, Marisu, and Carissa – To the principals: Dr. Stewart, Dr. Jones, Mr. Bice, Ms. Svatek, Dr. Russler, Mr. Mason, Mrs. Wilburn, and Coach Williams. And to Mr. Hunter, another event planner in the building. Thank you all for the wonderful party and for making the work environment so family like. I love you all!

Related Posts

12 Days of Christmas Fun at Work
12 Days of Christmas Party Ideas and Fun (Part 2)

Until next week…

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“Let the whole earth shout to the Lord; be jubilant, shout for joy, and sing.” Psalms 98:4

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  1. WOW–what a celebration! LOVE the switcheroo they pulled–telling you the party was for someone else. That’s a clever trick to keep the guest-of-honor in the dark! No doubt your party-planners hold you in high regard, Susan. Kudos to you for being a beloved colleague!

  2. Oh my gosh what a fun way to celebrate your transition from one adventure to another! I love that they all rallied together to include so many of your favorite things, including inviting your family. It’s such an amazing gift to be seen and I know they’re going to miss your loving kindess and encouraging words so much. Wishing you all the best and lots of hugs and prayers as you follow the path God has for you. I know it’s going to be something amazing, CoCo

    1. Thank you CoCo! It was an amazing party with amazing people! I have loved working with them as well as the students. They will be missed, but I plan on visiting.

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