How to Have a Great White Elephant

White Elephant Gift Exchange

I LOVE PRESENTS! (No shame.) So naturally I would jump at another opportunity to exchange presents – a White Elephant Gift Exchange!

White Elephant Gift Exchange

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I love gifting presents, I love receiving presents, I love helping people pick out presents for other people. Gifts are definitely my love language.



I was very excited when my family decided to do a White Elephant gift exchange a couple of years ago. Except… I put so much effort into my gift, and also made bonus gifts for extra prizes. I spent time wrapping them creatively so nobody would be able to tell its contents!

And it was a total flop!

So we’ve made some changes and here’s how you can have a successful White Elephant Gift Exchange!

Here’s how a White Elephant Gift Exchange works:

  1. Count how many participants you have, write down that many numbers (1 – ?) on individual pieces of paper. Fold them up and throw them in a hat (or other festive holding device).
  2. Go around the room and have each person pick out one number from the hat/FHD.
  3. The number your guests select determines the order in which they will pick gifts. Start with number one, they get to pick any gift from the pile. Gift-picker #1 should unwrap the gift and show it to the group.
  4. Gift-picker #2 can either choose a present from the pile, or steal Gift-picker #1’s gift.
  5. Gift-picker #3 can choose a present from the pile, or they can steal #1 or #2’s gift.
  6. Keep repeating this process until every one has a gift.

White Elephant Gift Exchange – Fun Variations

  1. Put a star or two on a couple of the numbers in the drawing, when guests pick their numbers, whoever has a star gets two gifts. Their gifts can still be “stolen” but they will end up with two gifts at the end. **You must put that many extra gifts into the gift exchange to make this work!!
  2. Set a “theme” for the gift exchange other than dollar amount. (We like to do $20 booze gifts at my house!) The idea/hope is that it is a silly gift exchange… but people still end up with something that have a use for and don’t throw away the next day.
  3. To really shake things up, go around a second or third time. More stealing gifts could be more fun. Judge your group – something they’d enjoy?
Need more gift ideas? You might like this post:

What to Get My Mom for Christmas This Year