We’ve all heard the phrase ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,’ but it’s not quite as relatable during a white elephant gift swap. They usually play out the same way. There’s a handful of quality gifts everyone ends up squabbling over. Two people who started the night off as friends get in a heated debate around the rules. And when the dust settles, you’re stuck holding a cat hair crafting book, and you don’t even have a cat. While we definitely get a kick out of gag gifts (and yes, that book really exists if you’d like to snag it for your next swap), we think gift exchanges are just a little bit sweeter when you love the gift you’re taking home with you. That’s why this year, we’re swapping our white elephant exchange for a favorite things party.
What is a favorite things gift exchange?
So, exactly what is a “My Favorite Things Party” and how do you throw one? The basic idea is that guests bring a few of the same unwrapped gifts that cost at or under the amount you set, then they go home with the same number of items from other guests. Instead of bringing gag gifts, ask each guest to bring something they really love. It’s an excuse to share your enthusiasm for the perfect lipstick, the hot sauce in your bag, or the matcha powder you swear by to get you through the morning.
First things first, set your budget
There are a few different ways you can organize your gift exchange. For large groups, you can set a higher budget ($20-$40) and have guests bring only one gift to swap Dirty Santa-style. For small groups, establish a lower price limit ($5-$10) and ask everyone to bring multiples of the same gift, one for each guest. Or if your party size falls somewhere in the middle, have guests bring three of the same item in the $5-$15 range, and swap in three rounds. Ahead we share our go-to sources for holiday gift ideas under $20, under $10, and even our favorite things under $5.
How to play: Lay down some favorite things rules
To avoid squabbling, decide on your favorite things party rules before you start swapping. Make sure you understand how to explain the rules or include them in the invitation to avoid any confusion.
If you’re playing Dirty Santa-style with a big group, have everyone bring their gifts wrapped. Each guest should draw a number from a bowl and take turns choosing (or stealing) gifts in numerical order. When someone opens a gift, whoever brought it shares why it’s their favorite. Rules vary, but typically each gift can only be stolen twice, and you can’t immediately steal back a gift once it’s taken from you. Whoever was the first to open a present at the very beginning has the last chance to steal, and then all gifts are locked in.
For medium-sized groups, have guests bring three identical gifts unwrapped. Display all the favorite things in the center of the room or on a table. Have everyone share why they brought their favorite thing, then draw numbers from a bowl. In numerical order, take turns selecting a gift from the pile. That gift is yours to keep, with no swapping, or stealing. Do this for three separate rounds, redrawing numbers from a bowl each time.
For small groups, the gift exchange is pretty straightforward. Everyone brings as many gifts as there are guests. Take turns sharing why you love your item, then pass them out amongst the group.
Favorite things party invitations
Once you decide on your budget and the swap style that’s best for your group, go ahead and send out your favorite things party invites. From traditional stationery-inspired Cards to animated Flyers with brown paper packages tied up with string, we have a wide range of designs perfect for your favorite things party invitation. Here are some of our favorites to spread the word in style:
Favorite things party invitations: “Favorite Things Swap” invitation; “Fave Things” invitation from Paperless Post Flyer; “Favorite People” invitation from Paperless Post Flyer.
Favorite things gift ideas for 2020
Whether you’re hosting or attending a favorite things party, the best part is undoubtedly shopping for your gift. If you’re still on the hunt, ahead are a few of our personal favorites to get you inspired. Need a little inspiration? Think about the brands you love to follow on Instagram, the small companies making it work in a changing retail landscape, or the products that make life a little sunnier in your day-to-day life.
Favorite things gift ideas under $5
–Your favorite magazine (Around $5): Some light reading for holiday downtime.
—Grace & Stella Depuffing Undereye Patches (12 for $15): No more dark circles.
—Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes (20 for $24): For cleansing on-the-go.
—Hyoola Beeswax Taper Candles (12 for $25): Handmade and slow burning.
—Matcha Pocky Sticks (3 for $4): You can’t go wrong with sweets.
Favorite things gift ideas under $10:
—Pat McGrath Labs Lip Minis (3 for $25): Available in matte and glossy finishes, both come in the chicest package.
—Mario Badescu Face Mist ($7): Nothing beats a mid-day spritz.
—Mini Cheese Plate ($6): Perfect for intimate entertaining.
—Silk Scrunchies (6 for $39): Give your ponytail an upgrade.
—GOLDE Superfood Latte Sampler (12 for $22): Your daily dose of superfood.
—Weleda Skin Food ($8): Hello, hydration. A cult-favorite moisturizer beloved by nurses and healthcare workers.
—COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patches (4 for $15): For not-so-perfect mornings.
—OXO Good Grips Electronics Cleaning Brush ($6): Gunk be gone.
—Luna Magic Matte Liquid Lipstick ($8): A bold matte finish in a light formula.
—Reusable Glass Drinking Straws (6 for $9): Save the turtles.
—Keepax To-Go Insulated Coffee Mug ($9): BYO to the coffee shop.
—OXO 3-In-One Avocado Slicer ($10): Avocado toast, made easier.
—Dewey’s Bakery Triple Ginger Cookies ($6): Like we said, you can’t go wrong with sweets.
Favorite things gift ideas under $20:
—Linoto linen coaster (2 for $12): Handcrafted by artisans in upstate New York from super soft natural fabric.
—Harlem Candle Co. travel candle ($15): Try the “Lenox” inspired by the Avenue has always been Harlem’s heartbeat with notes of tangerine, gardenia, and sandalwood.
—Stasher 100% Silicone Reusable Food Bags ($12): Tupperware of the future.
—BAGGU Reusable Tote ($12): The perfect all-purpose tote.
—Rosen Skincare Earth Cleanser ($14): Founder Jamika Martin created this creamy face wash with natural anti-bacterial and astringent properties to fight acne naturally.
—La Botica Palo Santo incense ($16): Traditionally used by the Incas to rids evil spirits? Worth a shot, with sweet notes of pine, mint, and lemon.
Briogeo Hair kit ($20): Try either the Repair Rituals or Fairwell Frizz kits.
Tatcha The Deep Cleanse ($16): Natural exfoliant from Japanese Luffa fruit helps turn over pores.
Looking for even more holiday party inspiration? Prep for incoming guests with hosting tips from our partners, holiday party planning guide, or show up in style with outfit tips from InStyle editor, Kahlana Barfield Brown.