White elephant gift exchanges can be both challenging and fun. While it can take a lot of the stress out of Christmas shopping, it can also be difficult to try to buy a gift for someone when you don't know who is going to receive it. It can also seem impersonal to both the shopper and the person receiving the gift. If a family or company is going to do a white elephant gift exchange as a part of their Christmas celebration, it can be very helpful for the person or company hosting the white elephant gift exchange to set up a few guidelines for those who choose to participate. Below are a few ideas to consider for having a personalized and successful white elephant gift exchange:
Be Sensitive to People's Financial Situation
Not everyone has a great deal of extra spending money, especially at Christmas time. So it's a good idea to set a maximum limit on the amount of money that people spend. Another option is to give people a range to work within such as $5-$10 or $10-$15.
Pick a Specific Item
Giving people an item for which to shop can cut down on the stress of trying to figure out what to buy for an unknown recipient. So suggest something specific such as everyone buying or making a Christmas tree ornament, holiday decoration or figurine or a Christmas mug.
Tie the Gift to a Special Memory
Ask people to include a note inside the box (or gift bag) of their wrapped gift that reminds them of a favorite Christmas memory. Not only will this help to give a bit of direction as they shop for the gift, but it will also make the gift personal to both them and the person who will receive it. It can also be a great way to get to know people a little better and add a bit of a camaraderie within the group. For a bit of extra fun, tell people not to write who the gift is from on their note. Explain that when the gift is picked at the party, the person who picked the gift will guess who bought the gift based on the memory that is written on the note.
Give People Advance Notice and Reminders
It's a good idea to give people a two or three-week notice in advance of choosing a date for a white elephant gift exchange. In the case of a company or group of friends who are just planning to get together to enjoy sharing the Christmas season together, people may need a reminder of the date and a reminder to bring their gift two or three days before the event.
Suggest That People Bring a Dish to Share
This can take some of the stress off of the person hosting the party and give everyone a chance to pitch in. Whether people choose to bring cheese and crackers, cookies, cupcakes or take the really easy route and bring two liters to share, if everyone brings a little something, then there will be a little something for everyone.
Have People Pick a Number as They Arrive at the Christmas Celebration
Write a number on separate pieces of paper and place the numbers in a container. As people show up for the party, have them draw a number and ask them to hang on to it. Once everyone is settled and perhaps has had a bite to eat, call out a number and let people pick a gift from the white elephant gift pile. A chair can be placed near the pile so that the person picking the gift can be comfortable as they open the gift and take their best guess at which person matches the Christmas memory note and gift item.