How do I Plan a White Elephant Gift Exchange?

White elephant gift exchanges can be a great way to celebrate the holiday season. In addition to providing a fun game for guests to participate in, it can alleviate the pressures of trying to find the perfect gift for each person during your holiday party.

These gift exchanges aren’t the easiest events to put on, however, these quick tips should help make the process much easier:

1. Determine what group of people your event is going to be for.

Friends, family, co-workers–each group will have differing expectations and produce different results in the end.

2. Figure out whether you want your exchange to be funny or more serious.

The tone of your event will better help guests determine their gift and manage their expectations.

If you want the event to be funny, guests can work towards making their gift the funniest it can be and can expect, relatively well, that they’re going to to come away from the exchange with some kind of gag gift. Alternatively, for more serious events–which can still bring about laughs, “ooh’s,” and “ahh’s”–guest may expect to come away with something better that they want. Although the rules are the same, the overall strategy, as you can see, is different.

3. Choose the price range.

For funny events, you may want to choose a relatively low range and suggest that guests regift things that are true white elephants to them. For more serious events, consider the group of people that are attending your event and what they an afford. A good suggestion may be to suggest that people bring a new or wrapped gift that’s at least $25 for smaller budgets, for instance.

Ranges, minimums, and maximums; existing and brand new gifts will all change the dynamics of the exchange.

4. Decide the location and time.

For the location, you want to choose a large enough place where gifts and people can exist comfortably; and guests can see all of the gifts in play. Once you’ve chosen the location, you can figure out the time of the event.

In addition to these rules. XXXXXx It’s probably best to give guests enough time to get and arrange their gifts. Send out an invitation explaining the details of the event and start getting your gift ready.

For the actual event:

5. Gifts should arrive wrapped.

If they’re not wrapped, quickly take them aside and provide some wrapping for them so that guests already at your party do not know what’s inside. Promptly put it with the rest of the fits in a collection area.

Be sure to also keep track of who brought a gift. Those that brought a gift are able to participate in the exchange while those that have not, should not. Alternatively, you can add another gift personally to allow them to play. This gift should still be wrapped like all of the others.

6. Draw up numbers.

Create one number for each person that brought a gift, then shuffle these numbers together.

Come game time:

7. Give each person, that brought a gift, a number and arrange them in a circle around the gifts.

This is where rules tend to diverge, but here’s a general guide you may want to follow:

  1. The first person gets to choose an wrapped present from the pile of gifts.
  2. He or she unwraps the gift and shows it off to everyone.
  3. The next person in order, can take this gift or get a new gift. If he or she takes one of the gifts that has been previously revealed, the person that has had his or her gift stolen may steal a gift that was not just stolen or choose a gift from the gift pile.
  4. This process continues until the very end when the first person has a last chance to steal something.

Some other things to note:

  1. You may want to mark gifts somehow (stickers, marker, etc.) so that participants can visually see how many times a gift has been stolen.
  2. You may want to limit the number of steals to two or three to increase the speed of the game.
  3. You may want to have an award for best or worst gift that guests can vote on at the end.
  4. Those wishing to maintain the spirit of what “White elephant” means, may elect to ask guests to only bring things they have and don’t want.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll not only have fun, but have people leaving your party with smiles.