White Elephant gift exchanges – a staple at most holiday parties whether it’s for work or with your best friends. Regardless of who’s participating in the white elephant rodeo, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on your party etiquette. While certain things apply to all parties (like showing up on time or no more than 10 minutes late, including all guests in conversation, making your rounds, etc.), we wanted to supply you with dos and don’ts of being a white elephant party guest, because believe it or not, it’s important!
Do: Know Your Audience
The best part of a white elephant party are the funny gifts, but what’s funny to your grandma and what’s funny to your best friend from college can be very different. Is this a group of high school friends from 20 years ago? One side of your entire family with a mixture of ages? A work party? Knowing who will be there will greatly affect the type of gift you bring. Just as you might bring a lingerie gift to a bachelorette party, but not a bridal shower, the same goes for white elephant parties so make sure you know who’s coming through that door. Big tip: move beyond the gift cards and be clever! Bring some cool, cheap wine glasses as a gift, or a cute thermal mug or even give an emoji pillow…because they exist!
Do: Ask Questions
Some white elephant groups require the gift be something that you already own, or something that you buy used, or something you make. Others require a monetary maximum (my grandmother requires the receipt to prove it!) and rarely, some parties expect a really thoughtful, good gift. Wouldn’t you feel terrible if you brought a bunch of bacon Band-Aids to a thoughtful gift exchange where everyone else brought homemade soaps and custom key chains? That could be embarrassing.When in doubt, ASK. Also feel free to ask about the guest list, but not in a way that makes it sound like you’ll decide if you can come based on who else is going. Make sure they know it’s only to gauge what type of gift to bring.
Don’t: Wait Until The Last Minute
If the party is on the 10th, pretend it’s on the 5th. That way, you’re not scrambling at the last minute at the checkout counter of Bed Bath and Beyond where they keep the tchotchkes, trying to cobble a gift together. The best part of a white elephant party are the trades. How many times something is traded means it’s highly desirable, which means you won the gift-giving award and sometimes there is even a prize for that! Pondering about the gift ahead of time, even placing a few ideas in your Amazon basket before purchasing, or taking the time to think back to what were sought after gifts at the last exchange you went to, or even asking friends over lunch will help boost your creativity.
Don’t: Show Up Empty Handed
This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised. I know this necessarily isn’t white elephant specific, but despite giving a ton of lead time to guests, people still think it’s okay to attend a party empty handed! Remember your host! They planned, invited, orchestrated, put out food, drinks, etc. The least you can do is bring a bottle of something for you all to enjoy, or some cheese, or flowers for the host, anything really! When I’m running late, I always grab a bottle of wine. If I have a lot of leftovers or food in my house, I’ll call the host and offer to bring something, since I already have food on hand. This could be helpful especially when you’re running late. And remember, if you’re going to a white elephant party, bring the gift. It can get a little interesting when you arrive to a party with no white elephant gift to add to the table!
– Guest Contributor, CR