How To Host Your Annual White Elephant Exchange On Zoom

It's easier than you think.

by Lauren Grant
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If there's one event that gets the holiday season going it’s a white elephant party. Fun and devious, these events can be played throughout the year but they get special attention during the holidays. Even though holiday gatherings will look a little different this year, there are plenty of ways to still get into the spirit virtually. Whether you're planning an online Christmas dinner or hosting a white elephant party on Zoom, it just takes a little planning, creativity, and of course, the perfect backdrop.

White Elephant parties go back to the early 1800s in Siam (now Thailand). These parties were often extravagant, with gifts that are usually too complicated to take care of. However, in modern times we've switched it up by getting useful gifts that will leave everyone fighting over the best prize by the end of the evening.

This year, since everything has gone virtual, you won’t have to run away from your friend after stealing their gift. Get the invitations ready, choose a steal-worthy gift, and be prepared to curse the names of those you love — this is one Zoom party that’ll be talked about until the next holiday season.

Send Invitations & Rules

You won't have to worry about taking the long walk to the mailbox if you send your party guests a virtual invite. Websites like Paperless Post, Evite, and more offer virtual holiday invitation templates that will fit whatever tone you want to set.

As the rules for white elephant parties are looking different this year, make sure to tell your guests what to expect. Typical white elephant rules state that everyone takes turns picking which gift they want to unwrap until there are none left. As each participant gradually unwraps a gift, the next participant has the option to either steal from a previous person or open a new gift.

Draw Names

Can't decide which guest gets the first pick of the night? Name-drawing tools like Elfster and Giftster make it easy to anonymously decide the order you'll go in.

Choose Your Virtual Gift

Instead of mailing each other gifts or giving out IOUs, make the call to exchange digital gifts this year so you can email them to each other. A Hulu subscription, online workout classes, a month of a meditation app — treat your friend (and maybe yourself) to virtual gifts that keep giving.


Set Up The Zoom Party

First things first: set up your Zoom backdrop. Get a little creative and make your backdrop a scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas or another holiday classic. Break out the festive cocktails and start the evening with a fun icebreaker. Embarrassing holiday stories, like when you and your sibling forgot to defrost the Christmas roast, are a good way to break the silence to get the party going.

Start The Gift Exchange

Here's where friendships will be tested. Decide the order in which you'll draw names (random, by age, or gift price) and have each guest present their gift out loud to their recipient, allowing for steals. Be sure not to actually send the gift until the end, after all gifts have been swapped and or stolen.

Wrap Up With Some Quality Time

If you're still friends by the end of the gift exchange, enjoy the rest of the evening with your loved ones. Watch a movie together, play a virtual game, or just enjoy each other's company to end a good night.