How to Host an Unforgettable (White Elephant) Gift Exchange Party - Adorable FREE Printables in this post. Also, a post with great white elephant gag gift ideas! -PlanForAwesome!

We’ve all been to one (and if you haven’t, all the more reason to host one yourself)!  White Elephant Gift Exchanges come in all different shapes and sizes.  From the people who participate to the parameters you set on the gifts, no two (White Elephant) Gift Exchanges are alike.

***I put “White Elephant” in parentheses because the majority of this post could apply to any type of gift exchange/gathering.***

There are several things to consider when planning a White Elephant Gift Exchange.

When

Although traditionally around the holidays, there is nothing wrong with doing one of these at any time of year.  In fact, the holidays are so busy that one year our friends purposefully waited until January to do it, so more people could attend.  So don’t feel like you have to do it in December.  Branch out and make your own rules!

Who

These parties really can be for anyone.  The participants may determine the types of white elephant gifts you will be exchanging, but all of them are FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!

  • Couples
  • Girl’s Night Out
  • Extended Family Gatherings
  • Kids Only
  • Co-Workers
  • Friends

Type of Gifts to Exchange

There are a lot of different types of gifts that can be exchanged at these parties.

  • Gag gifts
  • Fun/Useful Gifts
  • Homemade Gifts (tacky)
  • Homemade Gifts (nice – crafty)
  • Used Gifts (thrift store items)

As I said, you will want to consider the company you are inviting before determining what type of gifts you will be exchanging.  For instance, if you are doing an exchange with young children, I would not recommend gag gifts.  I hope I don’t need to explain.  Afterall, a picture is worth a thousand words…

How to Host an Unforgettable (White Elephant) Gift Exchange Party - Adorable FREE Printables in this post. Also, a post with great white elephant gag gift ideas! -PlanForAwesome!

Ground Rules for Gifts

    1. The gifts need to relate to the party theme (gag, useful, homemade/creative, etc)
    2. The gifts need to be under $__
    3. The gifts should be wrapped
    4. Each person who would like to participate in the exchange needs to bring their own gift (if one couple wants to bring one gift, then they will participate as a team.  If they each want to bring a gift, they will each leave with a gift).

Food

What’s a party without the food?!  We always do it potluck style.  Having everyone bring a main dish or appetizer seems to work well.  If you do an Evite, having everyone reply with what they are bringing helps prevent duplicate dishes.  You can also use the feature on Evite that has people sign up for specific things. Sign-up Genius is also a free resource to use for specific sign-ups.  However you decide to organize the food, don’t forget about paper/plasticware and drinks.

If kids are invited, make sure some of the food will be kid-friendly so you don’t have a bunch of hungry kids and fancy appetizers at the end of the night.

How to Host an Unforgettable (White Elephant) Gift Exchange Party - Adorable FREE Printables in this post. Also, a post with great white elephant gag gift ideas! -PlanForAwesome!

Kid Options…

Adult-only parties can be super fun, but sometimes it’s hard for everyone to find sitters and make a date night out of the event.  Where making this an adults-only night is certainly an option, there are other options as well, to make it more convenient for all to attend.

  • If you have a big enough house with an accommodating floorplan, consider inviting families.  Everyone can eat and mingle together, and then when it is time for the gift exchange, putting on a movie for all the kids in a different room works wonders.  You can even have all of the kids bring a gift for a Kids-Only Gift Exchange (a $1 limit is a good price for this type of exchange).  The adults can help with the Kids’ Gift Exchange and then put on a movie during the Adult Gift Exchange.
  • If your house isn’t big enough to accommodate kids and adults at the same time, consider asking a friend to have their house be the “Kid Hub.”  Have everyone pitch in for a few babysitters and some pizzas (and possibly a house cleaning the next day) to hold down the fort at the kid house.  Everyone drops their kids off at the Kid Hub and then heads on over to the adult house.  You could even have the babysitters facilitate the Kids Gift Exchange if you wanted the kids to be able to participate in the gift-giving.  If you opt for this option, just be sure to be clear on how much each family should plan on contributing toward the babysitting/pizzas, and whether it will be per family, per kid, etc.  Also be clear on drop-off and pick-up times.

Invitations

Since you are asking guests to bring gifts, you’ll want to give them as much time as possible.  Try to get it on the calendar and get invitations out ASAP.  Amazon Prime definitely makes it possible to do a last-minute exchange, but the longer you give people, the more creative the outcome will be.

As I mentioned in the “Food” section, Evite and Sign-Up Genius are two resources that are great for inviting people if you want them to sign up for a specific dish.

Just be sure to include the following information:

  1.  Be CRYSTAL CLEAR about WHO is invited to this party
    • Are kids allowed?
    • What if someone has a kid home from college?  Are they allowed to participate?  Anyone over 18?
  2.  If you have arranged for kids to go somewhere else, be clear about times, cost, and what will be provided at that house
    • Cost – include babysitting and food in the cost per kid or family
    • Drop-off and pick-up times
    • Food (I recommend pizza)
    • Babysitters
    • If you plan on showing a particular movie for the kids, make it known on the invitation, since parents won’t be at the kid house
  3.  If you are doing a Kids Gift Exchange, specify what they should bring
    • Price limit
    • Wrapped or unwrapped
    • Should they be for a boy or a girl, or gender neutral?
  4.  Food
    • Are you assigning specific types to certain people?
    • How many should their dish feed?
  5. Gift Exchange
    • You don’t need to lay out all the rules for the exchange on the invitation, but there are a few things you need to cover:
      • Price Limit
      • Party Theme
      • Wrapped
      • Each person participating in the exchange needs to bring their own gift

The Actual Exchange

Before your guests arrive…

You will want to have little numbers ready to go in a bowl.  If you are uncertain how many people will be bringing a gift, just have the little papers cut and ready to put in the bowl.  You will want the same number of papers in the bowl as there are gifts to exchange.  I have created these handy little numbers for you to print out and cut out. (Scroll to the bottom of the post for the printable PDF – it is higher quality than this jpeg) ♥

How to Host an Unforgettable (White Elephant) Gift Exchange Party - Adorable FREE Printables in this post. Also, a post with great white elephant gag gift ideas! -PlanForAwesome!

Once you are ready to start the gift exchange…

  1. Put all the wrapped gifts in the center of the room.
  2. Each guest who is participating in the exchange picks a number.
  3. #1 goes first.  Pick a gift from the center of the room and open it.
  4. Move on to #2 (and so forth).  Each person can either steal a previously opened gift, or choose a new gift and open it.  If he chooses to steal a gift, then the person he stole it from may steal a gift from someone else or choose one from the center of the room.
  5. The only gift you cannot steal is the one that was just stolen from you.
  6. Continue this process until every person has a gift.
  7. Once everyone has a gift, #1 has the chance to trade with any unfrozen gift.

How to Host an Unforgettable (White Elephant) Gift Exchange Party - Adorable FREE Printables in this post. Also, a post with great white elephant gag gift ideas! -PlanForAwesome!

**These steps are in a printable format at the end of this post**

A couple extra little things to make the game more interesting…

  • Make a rule that all gifts must be in clear, plain view throughout the duration of the exchange.
  • If the gift is wearable/usable, you can require the person to open it and begin use immediately until it is stolen, upon which the new owner must immediately use the gift (for instance, a silly wig or a pair of glasses).  If it is edible, the person receiving the gift could be required to take at least one bite of it upon opening the gift.  This rule works well for gag gift parties 😉
  • If the theme is real, fun, useful gifts, you may want to require the exact opposite of the suggestion above, and make a rule that everything remains in the original packaging until the exchange is over.

How to Host an Unforgettable (White Elephant) Gift Exchange Party - Adorable FREE Printables in this post. Also, a post with great white elephant gag gift ideas! -PlanForAwesome!

Optional Variations…

  • You can choose to set a limit on the number of times a gift can change hands.  For instance, a gift can be stolen three times, so the gift is frozen on the fourth owner (or fifth or whatever limit you want to set.  The printable has a limit of 3 steals).
  • You can choose to not open or steal any gifts…just start with number 1, have them choose a gift, and work your way down the list until everyone has a gift.  Then everyone opens their gifts at the same time.  This version works well with little kids.

Free Printables

HERE is the PDF file with the free printable rules and numbers.

**My Printables are always free! All I ask for is a kind follow on Instagram Facebook Pinterest     or a share/pin of this post.  Also, don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss another free printable like this one!  Thank you for your support!**

Happy partying!  Just get some Kleenex ready, because if you’re like me, you’ll be crying in no time.

To see my Top 10 White Elephant Gag Gifts Available on Amazon, read this post.

For THE BEST website for unique gifts and stocking stuffers, you HAVE to check this post out!

How to Host an Unforgettable (White Elephant) Gift Exchange Party - Adorable FREE Printables in this post. Also, a post with great white elephant gag gift ideas! -PlanForAwesome!