How to host a White Elephant gift exchange party

Tips on how to host the best White Elephant Gift Exchange party:

The White Elephant Gift Exchange is a party game that can work with your co-workers, your team-members, housemates, community groups that you're a member of, and even your closest group of friends or family. It is the perfect party game for all of these scenarios! It's even been used in large family groups whose members are older and already have everything. This party game makes those large group gatherings more affordable, more eventful and definitely more fun.

The goal of the White Elephant Gift Exchange is to entertain the group, not to walk away with the best present! The success of this is dependent on the rules that the organizer sets, from price limits to style of gift. There is no right or wrong way to play this game, and there are hundreds of variations that can be adopted to suit the crowd.

Everyone brings a present, everyone leaves with a present, and the hilarity that ensues is sure to make your Christmas party one to be remembered!

When starting to think about how you will organize this game, bear in mind: there is no right or wrong way to play this game! It is so popular, you will probably have one or two guests who have participated in this game somewhere else. If you are reluctant to organize this by yourself, teaming up with someone else is always more fun when leading a game. A partner or partners will have some great ideas, especially when it comes to deciding what theme and type of presents will be included in the White Elephant Gift Exchange.

This gift-exchange game will take about an hour, depending on the size of the group. Here are some hosting tips to ensure that your White Elephant Gift Exchange is a success:

Timing: Make sure you give everyone lots of time to get prepared - both mentally and in buying their gifts. Its a busy time of year and everyone will have multiple commitments, so give your guests plenty of lead time.

Communicate: Send out reminder texts or emails to your guests, but not too many as people may get annoyed. These communications can include inspirational photos or memes of what to buy or what not to buy.

Number of Players: The minimum size for this game to be fun is four people and the maximum is about 20 - any more than that and the game can go on too long.

The Goal is Fun: The number one idea to remember about the White Elephant Gift Exchange is that the goal of this game is to entertain your group, not for guests to pride themselves on walking away with the "best" gift.

Gifts: The White Elephant Gift Exchange requires each guest to bring a gift. These gifts must be wrapped with no present tags and no discernible characteristics visible. The host sets a theme and a price limit. This ensures that all gifts are of equal value and that everyone is buying something within the same idea.

Encourage Gift-Swapping: Every now and again throughout the game, the host(ess) yells "Swap!" and everyone who has an opened gift in their lap MUST swap with someone.

Another great way to encourage swapping is to prepare ahead of time, a list of statements that you will read out. Anyone who the statement applies to must stand up. Everyone standing MUST swap gifts! Here are some sample statements:

  • I went to college
  • I love pizza
  • I have blue eyes
  • I own a bicycle
  • I am the youngest in my family
  • I have gone fishing
  • I hate my job! (make sure your boss is not in attendance!)

Food, Music, Costumes and Decor: Alongside the gifts that are exchanged, you can also plan the food, music and decor around what you think your guests might enjoy. Sometimes a potluck event works well, where everyone brings a dish to share, from hors d'oeuvres to appetizers, finger food to a full buffet meal. You, or any of the guests, can create music playlists. Sometimes hosts want guests to dress up along the same theme as the gifts. You can also research different kinds of decor used around the world at this time of year and decorate your gathering space with this. It is always more fun to have a team of people planning a party, and a White Elephant Gift Exchange is no different. The more the merrier!

Gift from the Host(ess): Some variations on the White Elephant Gift Exchange have the circle of swapping end with a gift from the host(ess). This gift should be of the same theme and value as you've set for your guests. It also means that as the host(ess), you have not participated in the exchange itself but managed it as the game evolved. The gift from the host(ess) can be a reward, and you can decide what the criteria is for this reward. You can also let your guests know at the start of the game that there will be one final gift from you at the end of the game. You can choose your own criteria, but some suggestions include: person who's gift was swapped the most amount of time, person who's behavior was the most boisterous, person who needs a consolation prize, person who's gift was the most creative.

Follow these tips to ensure the best success possible for your White Elephant Gift Exchange!

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