Elephant in the Room

How to make white elephant gifts not totally suck

Every year the invitations roll in for white elephant parties, which leave some scratching their heads at what to bring. For novices or anyone who has experienced a past party failure, here are some DOs and DON’Ts for your holiday white elephant party. 

1) DO know your target market. We all have those friends that have seen us at our worst, held our hair while we were puking or were our partners in streaking. With those friends, we can be as classless and tasteless with our gifts as we want to be. However, since most of our white elephant parties will not be with those people, DON’T gross everyone out. When in doubt, think, “Would my mom think this was funny — or that sweet old lady down the street?” So DON’T bring fake dog poo or personal hygiene products to just any white elephant party. Save those for the special ones.

2) DO give tacky pop culture gifts. That vintage New Kids on the Block button, *NSYNC Christmas CD (or, better yet, cassette) or Britney Spears poster will bring a nostalgic laugh to the party. DON’T touch religion, politics or social movements. Remember, white elephant parties can be filled with acquaintances that don’t already know how awesome you are — don’t be the person who ruined the party by offending half the guests. Use your blossoming stand-up political satire on another holiday.

3) DON’T bring cashmere to a T-shirt party or drop $50 when you were supposed to spend $5. And make sure the effort you put into your gift isn’t going to put everyone else to shame, because no one likes an over-doer. DON’T obviously re-gift or grab the nearest T-shirt off your floor. DO take a moment to think about the gift and make sure it’s something that you wouldn’t mind being stuck with at the end of the night.

4) DON’T think for a minute your gift is going to stay a secret. If it’s especially cool or horrible, there isn’t a person in that room who won’t be trying to figure out who it came from. DO think about your wrapping. The two presents that will get the most attention are the one wrapped in a brown paper bag and the one with wrapping that looks straight off of Pinterest. DO try to be the first gift chosen by being creative with your choice of coverings.

5) If all else fails, DO think booze. It may not be the most original, but even cases of PBR are popular at these parties. If you can’t think of anything appropriate, unisex or theme fitting, no one is going to blame you for defaulting to the booze route. Almost everyone likes wine or whiskey, so you’re pretty safe there — unless you are not. DON’T take booze if it is clearly not appropriate. Remember, the first rule of white elephanting is to always know your target market.