How to Host a Virtual Gift Exchange or White Elephant Party

When the email popped in to my inbox, I’ll admit, I was a little confused. Heather, the brain power behind the online gift exchange, asked us to “Trust the process.” So, we did and it was a really fun night full of laughter and stories and presents!

Virtual Gift Exchange How-To

The coordinator of the party will need to send out an email with a few instructions and a link to an online video conference service. We used Zoom but I also love Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts.
Prior to the party, you need to:

Instruct your guests to purchase two of their favorite things (they should be two different things) and set a budget for how much each item should cost. Setting expectations keeps things fair and allows your guests to decide if this is an event that fits in their budget. Our items were to cost $10-12 each and were to be two of our favorite things. Some of you may choose to do a White Elephant or a swap.

Guests are not to wrap the items, but instead have them nearby but off camera during the event. Be sure that everyone keeps their items a secret.

Prior to the party, each person will write a creative clue or hint about each of their gifts on a Post-it note or other piece of paper. Each gift is to have its own Post-it clue. At the top of the Post-it, write the word “Gift.” Be sure to write legibly and with a dark marker so that everyone can read it.

During the Socially Distant Exchange Party

Set the rules for the exchange and create the gifting order. If there’s a chat option, drop the list of your guests names in the order they will select their gift. For our exchange, we set a “steal” limit of two times. If you have a lot of people or are short on time, you might want to allow for only one steal. For a longer party, you can increase it to three steals.

To kick the gift exchange off, everyone shares their hints. After all of the hints have been read, every person holds up their hints and the first person selects one clue. The person holding that clue reveals the gift associated with that clue and then disposes of their Post-it with the information. Now, person #1 is in (virtual) possession of that gift. So person #1 will write the name of the person they “opened” the gift from at the top of their note and the name of the gift. See example below.

Guests then show all of their Post-it Notes again, including any new gifts in their (virtual) possession and person #2 selects a clue or steals the gift from person #1. It is not uncommon for a guest to have 3 or 4 Post-it notes at once and some guests to have one or none during a round.

In the event that a guest decides to steal a gift from someone, that guest then writes a #1 at the top of their Post-it to share that it’s been stolen one time and then they write the gift item below. In our case, if the gift was stolen a second time, the gift was dead and belonged to the person who stole it for the second time.

Anytime a gift is taken from you, you will destroy that note. If a gift is stolen from you, you then get to select another gift or steal from someone else at that time. You cannot steal the gift back that was stolen from you, you’ll have to wait until the next time it’s your turn to pick. Once all of the gifts have been “unwrapped” or rather the clues have been selected and everyone has two gifts, the game is over!

How to Get Your Gifts Exchanged

Our group of friends all live within a few miles of one another, so we selected a meeting spot and time to drop our gifts in a socially distanced fashion. Since we all go to the same church, we met in the church parking lot, we all stayed in our vehicles in a circle and took turns distributing our gifts near the other person’s vehicle. Then we each got out of our cars and snagged our gifts.

If you decide to do your gift exchange from a long distance, you’ll have to look at shipping options.

Things You Need for a Social Distancing Gift Exchange

  • A marker that is easy to read
  • Stack of Post-its or multiple pieces of paper
  • Two different gifts
  • Personal drink and snack of choice
  • Video conferencing platform

Alternative Exchange Party Ideas

I think another way this could be fun is to clean out your cupboards in your bathroom and your cosmetic bags and group together all of the products you purchased but decided were’t right for you. Then you can swap within your group. Copy and repeat for accessories, jewelry, clothing, children’s toys…

Several of us shared our favorite wines or adult beverages. This would be another fun activity, a wine swap after a vacation. I wish I had thought of this during the summer when I had to cancel my annual Summer Wine Down.

What to Gift at the Virtual Exchange Party

Since our instructions were to gift two of our favorite things, there were a variety of things given AND a lot of fun stories swapped. Here’s what our group ended up with: Sangria, plant, eye pillow, RBG mask (locally made), pens, grocery bags, books, spa items — including a butt mask (that was a fun one with lots of laughs and… steals!), winter gloves, Blue Moon, candle, homemade peanut butter chocolate torte, winter hat, coasters, lotion and Poopouri.

Thank you so much to Heather and her co-worker for dreaming up how this could work and orchestrating so much fun! Thank you to the NPC moms for an amazing night!

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