Rules Of The White Elephant Gift Exchange

Christmas is a time to let loose, relax and not worry about things that would normally get you all stressed out. It's a time that you want to enjoy with your family, friends and even work colleagues. It's not a time when you want to concern yourself with rules, but in order for your White Elephant exchange to run smoothly and successfully there are some guidelines that everyone must follow.

There are some main rules that must be adhered to in every White Elephant exchange and then there are some optional rules. The optional rules that can be added will make the game run differently and perhaps be more fun, depending on what everyones preferences are. You can customize your White Elephant exchange to fit the group of people you are playing with. The optional rules are especially helpful when it comes to the number of people that are involved, be it a large or small group.

The Three Essential Rules

Listed below you will find the quintessential rules to any White Elephant exchange. Without these guidelines being strictly followed, well you just wouldn't have yourself a White Elephant party.

The first thing people must remember to do is to bring a gift, if you forget to bring your gift then someone won't get one or you won't be able to participate because it will leave someone presentless. Bringing more than one gift has no purpose either because everyone will be unwrapping only one present, so it's really just a waste.

The next rule is that the gift you bring must be wrapped. It doesn't matter how you want to wrap it, but it must be well concealed so people cannot tell what lies beneath. Remember to have fun with the way that you wrap your gift, it's a great way to mislead people. You could try wrapping your gift in a misshapen way or wrapping a small item in a much bigger packaging to throw people off.

The third rule that shouldn't be deviated from at a White Elephant exchange is that there is no immediate stealing back from a player. This means that if a player has their gift stolen by another player they cannot immediately swap gifts with that same person. Without this rule two players may end up swapping back and forth with each other and then the game would go no where. Before the first person opens a gift make sure that everyone understands this rule.

Some Optional Rules

Optional rules added to your White Elephant party can make things more fun and interesting, especially if you are playing with a particularly small or large group of people.

Stealing/Swapping Gifts

If you have a small group of participants it maybe a good idea to have multiple rounds of stealing gifts to make the game lengthier. If, on the other hand, you have a large group you may want to have a smaller number of rounds where people can steal gifts or the game may drag on and leave people tired of participating.


People who are familiar with White Elephant exchanges know that you are expected to spend anywhere from $20-$25, but don't just assume everyone knows this. It's a good idea to set a price range beforehand because you do want to have gifts that are similar in value. You can set the budget at whatever you see to be fit, but remember the more the merrier and if the limit is set too high this may discourage people from participating.

An amount may not have to be set for all parties because these people may decide to bring in unwanted gifts instead of newly purchased ones.


Many people decide to go with a theme for their gifts and this can make things a lot of fun. Like the budget, a theme for gifts should be decided upon before the actual party, so that everyone is on the same page as to the type of gift to bring. These types of gifts could include funny clothing, gag gifts, DIY gifts, the list is endless.

This optional rule is pretty self explanatory, when the last gift is unwrapped the game ends. When you add this rule to a White Elephant party it encourages a lot of stealing until the last gift is opened. This is a great rule to add to your party if you're playing with a large group of people, 20 or more. Instead of stealing dragging out at the end, it is included in the whole game which helps to end things in an appropriate amount of time.

Wild Elephant

At the end of the game a timer is set and within that designated time frame you can steal and be stolen from as many times before the timer runs out. Whatever gift you are left with when the buzzer sounds is the gift you will go home with.

If you want to try and make things even more fun try coming up with you very own rules for you White Elephant exchange this Christmas.