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How To Organize a White Elephant Gift Exchange

How To Organize a White Elephant Gift Exchange
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Learn how to organize a fun White Elephant Gift Exchange for your holiday party.

If you haven’t played the lighthearted holiday gifting game called The White Elephant Gift Exchange, you are in for a treat. We’ve played it the last few years at our family gatherings, however, it’s also great fun at an office or group holiday party. While the idea is to include gifts that most consider to be tacky or undesirable–the games really get lively when participants are allowed to rid themselves of their ‘presents’ and replace them with something they really want. Get ready for some laughs and a lot of fun!

Here is the easiest way to organize a White Elephant Gift Exchange. You can change up the requirements to fit your family or group, just make it as fun and stress-free as possible.

  • Set the group’s ground rules. Now it wouldn’t be a game without the rules right? You’ll want to set a minimum and maximum dollar amount to spend on the gift. Also decide whether to include recycled or handmade gifts. Imagine the situation you’ll have on your hands if Uncle Bill brings the hottest new smart phone, and Cousin Tiff shows up with a used bottle of nail polish. Make sure that everyone knows the rules upfront and brings the type of present agreed upon.
  • Be prepared to share gift ideas. While the element of surprise is part of the fun, it would help to provide some example gift ideas to those who have not played the game in your group. Some playful and fitting ideas would be knick-knacks that are a little off-the-wall, bobble-head sets, funny coffee mug sets, funny banks, cutesy Christmas sweaters, and perfume sets that smell a little funny. Remember that one person’s junk is another’s treasure. Out of all the crazy presents, there is bound to be something that someone wants really bad. This is where “stealing” comes in. We’ll talk about that it a bit.
  • Instruct everyone to bring the wrapped gift and discretely place it in the designated area. The idea is that no one should know who purchased what gift. Oh and yes, you can end up taking home the gift you arrived with if it randomly works out that way!
  • Prepare to distribute numbers. The easiest way to do this is to cut up as many small papers as there are players. Write the number on each paper, fold it up and toss it in a box, basket, or gift bag. Walk around and have each player draw a number. The number chosen will be the order in which the player will select the White Elephant gift.
  • It’s game time! Starting with the person who picked number 1, each player will walk up to the gift table, select a wrapped gift, unwrap it, and show it off to the group. It’s important that everyone actually sees the gift so, yes, each player has to unwrap their gift. Surprise! Player #1 reveals a Rubik’s Cube.
  • Stealing! Here is where it gets lively. Player #2 gets a turn. However, they have a choice to either ‘steal’ that lovely, retro Rubik’s Cube from player #1, or take their chances at picking a better gift from the table. But, just as you probably thought, the next gift could be worse. So, player #2 decides to grab from the table and the gift turns out to be a Star Trek bank. Time for player #3 to take a turn, and so on, and so on. Let’s say you are #5 and you really love that Star Trek bank that player #2 picked. At your turn, you can walk up to #2 and claim or ‘steal’ the bank! Player #2 would then be able to replace his bank. He will shake up things by scanning the room to look at all previously opened gifts, decide to steal one, or take his chances on another wrapped gift from the table. This goes on until each player is holding a gift.
  • Limits and rules on stealing. A player can not immediately steal back a gift that was just stolen from him. Once a particular gift has been stolen a maximum of 3 times, it is frozen. It is now theirs and can not be stolen by players down the line. This will happen when there is a really cool gift that everyone seems to want.

It may sound a little confusing at first. Once you start playing it will all make sense and will start to flow. Some people think that it’s unfair that player #1 does not get the choice to steal or pick from the gift table. At our gatherings, we take a volunteer to go first or the host/hostess goes first. You can decide on your own variation of the game that works for your family, friends, or co-workers.


Holidays! Quote of the Day


Have you played a similar game as an alternative to the traditional Secret Santa or Grab Bags? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Playing gift exchange games can really be a frugal way to celebrate the holidays without breaking the bank. Everyone still takes home a gift and lots of fun was had for all! Happy Holidays from the Born Unique Moms

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14 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. White elephant exchanges can be so much fun!
    Virginia @thatbaldchick.com recently posted..6 crafts to do this winter break with your kidsMy Profile

  2. we do this and bring horrible things on purpose- we all do. its hilarious

  3. I love White Elephant Gift exchanges..they are so much fun! The goofier gift the better!

  4. I haven’t participated in a White Elephant Gift Exchange for so many years. I really loved it though.
    Ave recently posted..Save Time on your Holiday ShoppingMy Profile

  5. Thanks! To be honest, I had no idea what a white elephant exchange was!
    Amy Desrosiers recently posted..Stickeez™ Clutch – Bling Your World Clutch & Bonus Coin Kit #ReviewMy Profile

  6. White elephant is a lot of fun! I always try to get my family to it each year.
    trisha recently posted..Apps for Christmas! Inexpensive and fun gifts.My Profile

  7. We love white elephant gift exchanges. Our au pair is actually having one right now with her friends!

  8. we do something similar to this with my family and we exchange ornaments. This year the kids are participating too!

  9. Hmm, I’ve never don this, and not sure I would even want to! lol!
    Diane N – Philzendia recently posted..Pump up the Music with Deck by Sol Republic X MotorolaMy Profile

  10. We played this last year, the only difference was, we didn’t open the gifts until the end. It was still lots of fun!

  11. I really wanted to do one of these this year, but I asked everyone too late. It’s on for sure next year!
    Wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas recently posted..For the bookworm on your holiday gift list! @TidyBooksMy Profile

  12. I LOVE this game and I REALLY love stealing gifts!

  13. These seem fun. I have not done one before.
    Debi@TheSpringMount6Pack recently posted..Magic Sound Box- A Perfect Stocking Stuffer For TeensMy Profile

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