Lifestyle Occasions Festivities

Play by the Rules: The Official Guide to Wish Elephant

Playing white elephant is as much arguing about the rules of the game as it is actually playing it. How many times can you steal? How should the gift have to be wrapped in a brown paper bag? How much should you spend? How many people can play?

We have all the answers for all these questions and more with our Wish Elephant Official Rules Guide so you can play without the shouting or any of the pouting. 


  • Recommended party size is 11 players 
  • Each participant must purchase a gift (we suggest using our Wish Elephant go-to gift guide)
  • Items are ideally gender-neutral gifts
  • Organizer/Host of the Wish Elephant party can designate a price limit for gifts

How to Play:


  • Bring one anonymously wrapped, unmarked gift and place in the common gift area of the party upon arrival 
  • Draw numbers out of a hat to determine who selects a present to unwrap first
  • Player who draws “1” chooses a gift from the common gift area to unwrap 
  • Take turns in numbered order and choose one of the following actions:

  1. Pick one of the remaining gifts from the common area to unwrap
  2. Steal a gift from another player
  3. If your gift is stolen, then you may immediately choose another gift from the common area or steal someone else’s gift

  • After all players have taken a turn, the player who drew “1” gets a chance to swap their gift for any other opened gift
    • Any player whose gift is stolen may steal from someone else (as long as that person’s gift  hasn’t been stolen from yet)
    • When someone declines to steal a gift, the game comes to an end 
  • Players can only reveal which gift he or she purchased once the game is over


Wish Elephant Gift Giving

  • Immediate re-stealing of gifts is not permitted
  • A player cannot steal back the same gift that was just stolen from them 
  • Gifts can be stolen a maximum of three times throughout the entire game
  • If a player has a gift stolen from them three times, then the player is out of the game and their gift is no longer eligible to steal

Optional Variations: 

  • First player is not allowed to steal a gift at the end. 
  • Leave all gifts wrapped until the end of the game - stealing is still allowed. 
  • Organizer can designate a specific category of gifts, if desired -- for example:
    • Gag gifts only 
    • Pick a letter in the alphabet (gifts must start with that letter)
    • Choose a color or number (all gifts must be of that color or incorporate that number in some way)
    • Home and office decor items
    • Wearable items only
    • Gifts inspired by the 90s 
    • Rainbow theme (everyone gets assigned a different color) 
    • Animal theme (gift must be animal-related in some way) 
    • Treat Yourself - Wellness gifts only 
    • Stock the Bar - Party accessories 
    • Do-It-Yourself - craft items/accessories 
    • Internet Trends (e.g. VSCO Girl, Old Town Road) 

All the rules have been outlined and variations given to customize your party. Head over to our Wish Elephant Gift guide for fun, crazy and quirky gift ideas. All gender-neutral and sure to make a lasting impression during any holiday party.

Whichever way you decide to play or however many steals you allow, we want to wish you the best during the holiday season!

Wish Elephant Gift giving