White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules and Ideas

Each year my wife and I hold a white elephant gift exchange party (usually around Christmas) and invite our best friends from around the neighborhood. Because this has become such a large tradition for us I wanted share a few ideas and rules that we have that make this party one of our favorites each year. What’s a White Elephant Gift?

A white elephant gift is a clever, naughty, or funny gift that you make or purchase. Some of the funniest gifts are those that you bundle together or have to wear.

White Elephant Gift Exchange Rules – Basic

First invite some of your funniest friends. They can be in couples or singles just make sure that everyone has a gift. Give them a price limit – around $20 for a gift should be more than enough. Setting a price limit makes everyone feel comfortable and makes people be creative. Once everyone arrives with their gift have them sit in chairs or sofas in a circular fashion and put all of their gifts (anonymously) in the middle. Pick someone to go first. We usually use the closest birthday or invite new guests to be first as their initiation. Once the first person has gone go around the circle clockwise and have everyone choose a gift. When its their turn they can either choose a new gift in the middle pile or choose to steal someone else’s gift. If they steal someone else’s gift, then that person will need to get a new gift out of the middle. Once a gift has been stolen 3 times it is usually considered “locked” or off limits. If you have a few friends that are a little more shy than others, then you might consider having everyone pick a gift first and then trading so that they have to open something. When the circle has gone all the way around we usually like to let the person who had to go first make the final gift exchange as a reward for all that punishment.

Optional White Elephant Exchange or Yankee Swap Rules

Share it, then wear it:

Assign a few people in your crowd to purchase something that can be worn by others. Whoever then picks that gift has to wear it! We’ve had anything from oversized superman underwear to thrift store lingerie come our way so as you can imagine this can be quite a funny twist! The key is to make everyone as uncomfortable as possible.

Ugly Sweater Theme:

You remember that old sweater that Grandma sewed for you that had more hanging off of it than on it? Have everyone find an ugly sweater and wear it to the party. Last year we had a few people take their sweaters and knit various patterns on them – including this one pictured to the right which one of the women in our party knitted for her husband. Little did she know she didn’t follow the pattern and put antlers on both of them – now that I think of it maybe she did know…

Homemade White Elephant Gifts

Some of the funniest gifts that I’ve seen are homemade. Instead of having everyone purchase a gift you can have them come up with something creative made up of what that they have lying around the house. This takes real commitment for some people so you may want to try it the second time you hold a white elephant party! You can take a look at some of our homemade white elephant gift ideas in the tab above! We’re always looking for new ideas so be sure to leave a comment with what you came up with.

Vote for the Best White Elephant Gift / Ugly Sweater

We like to give out a trophy for the best white elephant gift. Have everyone vote by putting the name of the gift they thought was the best in a hat. Once you tally them up, then announce who the winner is (you might have to ask whose gift it is). We also like to vote for the ugliest sweater and give out a prize.

Board Games for Your White Elephant Party

We have a few board games that seem to work really well with our party each year. Here are a few of them:

Boxers or Briefs:

This hilarious game is like the adult version of Apples to Apples and its made by the same people. Everyone takes a turn, rolls the dice, and then people around them choose a card, based on the dice that they think is funny or true about the person who rolled the dice. That person then chooses the funniest and truest answer from the cards. The person who gets 6 funny or 6 true answers first wins the game. Here’s what one owner of the game said about it:

“It was tame enough to play with my mother-in-law while at the same time dirty enough to play with my friends. You do need to plan your sips of drink carefully. Also, head to the bathroom BEFORE the cards are read. I look forward to playing this game again and again. LOVE IT!”

We also like to give this game out as a “trophy” prize for the best white elephant gift or ugly sweater.

White Lies:

Another game we like to play is white lies which forces half of your party to lie and half of them to tell the truth. Each person is asked a question and then has to lie or answer with the truth based on what they were assigned. Whoever can tell who is lying and who is telling the truth first wins!

About ElephantPartyGuy

I'm a Father of 4 but that doesn't stop me and my wife from hosting our neighborhood white elephant gift exchange party each year. Take at all of my crazy gag gift ideas in the posts above and don't be afraid to leave a comment. I actively respond to reader comments, questions, and suggestions. Credentials: I've made literally tens of people laugh.
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