Secret Santa Gift Exchange Rules

gift exchangeOne of the more popular holiday games, Secret Santa (also known as Kris Kringle in some circles) is a fun and easy way for a group of friends, family members or co-workers to exchange gifts. A Secret Santa gift exchange can take place at a party or with participants all over the world!

The basic concept of the Secret Santa game is simple. All of the participants’ names are placed into a hat, box, etc. and mixed up. Each person then chooses one name from the box, but doesn’t tell anyone which name was picked. He/she is now responsible for buying a gift for the person selected.

When the Secret Santa wraps his/her gift, he/she should label it with the recipient’s name but doesn’t indicate whom the present is from. (Remember, most of the fun is in the secrecy.)

All the gifts are then placed in a general area for opening at a designated time. When the gift-giving time arrives, each recipient finds his/her gift and must guess who their Secret Santa is. If they can’t guess, their Secret Santa eventually confesses.

With the service, organizing and managing a Secret Santa gift exchange is now easier and much more fun. Using, a gift exchange administrator is able to:

  • Send fun email invitations to a group of friends, family or coworkers, inviting them to participate in a Secret Santa gift exchange.
  • Enter all of the participants’ names in a virtual “hat.” The system, using the Secret Santa Generator, randomizes all of the names and selects each participant’s gift recipient for him/her.
  • Run a gift exchange without all of the participants being in one place. All requires is that you enter all the participants’ email addresses and their gift recipients are sent out automatically.
  • Create a customized Secret Santa Gift Exchange page, which enables all participants to post RSVP responses and comments, as well as wish lists.
  • Create exclusions for each gift exchange to ensure that certain participants are not matched. (For example, Jack should not be Jane’s Secret Santa.)
  • Manage a Secret Santa gift exchange year after year, guaranteeing that participants do not get the same Secret Santa two years in a row.

Best of all – It’s absolutely FREE! gift exchanges are now powered by the Elfster Secret Santa Generator To start your Gift Exchange, just share a few details with our Secret Santa Generator and our elves will do the rest! Registration is fast, easy, and free. 

Using the Secret Santa Generator:

  • Sign into your account, or if you are already in your account, click on Start A Gift Exchange and follow the step-by-step instructions in the Secret Santa Generator wizard.
  • Create a title for your gift exchange in the Gift Exchange Name box. (i.e. John Doe’s 3rd Annual White Elephant or XYZ Corp.’s 2004 White Elephant).
  • Enter the date your gift exchange event will take place and the deadline date for friends to RSVP. Names will be drawn on the day after the date you select as your deadline to RSVP.
  • You will be asked a few more questions about your gift exchange, like whether or not you will be participating (or just organizing) and how gifts will be exchanged. If gifts will be exchanged at a party, provide a location (Will it be around the family Christmas tree or in the lunchroom in the workplace?)
    • TIP: Want to make a simple old Secret Santa more interesting? Assign the game a theme (i.e. Musical, Gourmet Foods, Fashion). Not only does it add a fun twist to the game, but it can also help out someone who has no idea what to buy for his or her chosen person.
  • Select a budget for your gifts. Remember, exchanging gifts with family members might involve a higher price range than one that takes place in an office environment. It isn’t the amount of money spent that makes a gift a hit — the more creative the gift the better.
  • Add a description in the “Anything else you want to tell everyone?” section. This area will provide participants with any details about the event – e.g. party theme, game rules, etc. These details will be found on the “Gift Exchange” page for participants to view at any time.
  • Now it’s time to invite friends and family. There are several options to create your list of invitees for the event, including email or by posting a link to share on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Once invitations have been sent, participants will be able to RSVP to your gift exchange and get started on Elfster, too.
  • To access your new gift exchange, click on the Gift Exchanges tab at the top of your homepage.

Way to go!  You have just created a Secret Santa Gift Exchange! gift exchanges are now powered by the Elfster Secret Santa Generator! There are two ways to join a gift exchange — by email invitation or using a link shared by the organizer:

Invitation Email: The invitation email lets you know you have been invited to join in a gift exchange event and who invited you. Also included is a brief message from the organizer of the event and details for the gift exchange.

To view more details about the gift exchange event and to reply to the invitation, just click to RSVP. You may then register your Elfster account or log in to an existing account.

Invitation Link:  If an organizer has posted an invitation link on a social media page or by shared in an email they generate, click on the link to see more details about the exchange, RSVP and register or log in to an existing account.

As a registered member of Elfster, you can manage all of your gift exchange events by clicking on the Gift Exchanges tab on the top of your homepage, or create a Wish List to share your wishes with your exchange group.

Gift Exchange Page: As a participant the gift exchange page includes the following:

  1. Event information: All the event information (type of gift exchange, time, date, location, price range, etc.)

  2. Participants: View who is participating, who is not and who is undecided.

  3. Activity: On this page, you may chat with your group to send along any fun, interesting or informative comments, which may be made anonymously for an added twist, view wishes made by members of the group and see Secret Q&A activity for other participants.

  4. Gallery: Once names have been drawn you can come back here to see thank you messages and gift pictures that have been shared with the group.

Gift Recipient Email: The gift recipient email notification lets you know whom you will be buying a gift for this year. Included in this email is a link to the Gift Exchange page to see who you have drawn.

Once who you know who you have drawn, you may ask them check out their wish list, see what they like

 and ask them secret questions by clicking on their name on the participants list.

Be Sure to Create a Wish List:  The Wish Lists page allows you to enter your gift wish list, which can be viewed by your Secret Santa and other participants in your exchange. Gifts may be added by Wishing for any item found on our Shop pages, copying the URL for an item from any website, or by using the Text option to write in your own wish.

TIP: Submitting wish lists is a great way to make sure all the participants receive a gift they will enjoy as well as assisting the Secret Santas in the gift buying process.

Before you start planning a Secret Santa Gift Exchange of your own, you may want to consider these factors:

Guidelines: The rules and terms of your Secret Santa game should be clearly drawn to insure a smooth gift exchange.

Secrecy: This is the probably the most enjoyable part of the game. Not knowing who your Secret Santa is adds to the intrigue and excitement. Keep the guessing games going in the time before the exchange.

Happy Gifting!

grab gift exchanges are now powered by the Elfster Secret Santa Generator! As a registered member of Elfster, you can manage all of your gift exchange events listed on your Gift Exchanges page, which is accessible by clicking on the Gift Exchanges tab on the top of your homepage. Gift Exchange Event management can only be done by the gift exchange Organizer (the person who created the gift exchange) or any of their assigned Assistants.

When you log into your account, you will automatically be brought to your homepage. Your Elfster homepage is where you will find the following information:

  • User profile information – all of your registration information, which can be edited by clicking on your Profile image.
  • Current gift exchange event information – listing all of your gift exchange events that are still taking place or have recently ended (whether you are an administrator or participant).
  • Previous gift exchange event information – listing all of your gift exchange events for previous years (whether you were an administrator or a participant).

To manage or view any one of the current gift exchanges, just click on the Gift Exchange box on your homepage and this will take you to the Gift Exchange Event page.

gift exchangeManaging A Secret Santa Gift Exchange Event:

A Secret Santa gift exchange is a fun way to exchange gifts with friends in person or across the miles! Our Secret Santa Generator will randomly assign names that participants will be sending a gift to. In a Secret Santa style gift exchange, participants will not draw the same person who drew them. In a Meet and Gift style gift exchange, each person will be paired with the same person who drew them.

As the organizer of your exchange, you will see options only available to you and any assistants you assign to help you manage your exchange. To pick an Assistant, click on that option below your name on your exchange page. You can select another participant from a drop down menu.

These options are shown to Organizers and Assistants as tabs at the top of your gift exchange page as follows:

Activity — view activity related to the exchange, including messages to the group, wishing activity, etc.

Edit — change gift exchange title, description, dates, and gift exchange details.

Invite — add more participants to your gift exchange by email, or post a sign up link to social media pages. You may invite participants at any time, however, if names have been drawn, new participants will have to be added as latecomers.

Participants — view list of participants and their status in the exchange, with option to Accept for those people who have not done that, as well as the option to set Draw Restrictions in exchanges when names will be drawn. Organizer will also see the option to expand the user information box for any participant to Send Message, Decline, Remove, Send Gift Exchange Link and Assign.

Privacy + Options — set options to protect the privacy of participants by limiting messaging, contact information, birthday alerts to the members of the group, as well as email notifications for exchange related information.

Draw Restrictions — set Draw Restrictions to prevent participants from drawing certain others (i.e., spouses, siblings, etc.)

Have Some Secret Santa Fun:

There are plenty of awesome features right on your exchange page to encourage your group to get into the gifting spirit!

On your gift exchange page, you will be able to Share Something With The Group to post a message to the Activity Feed for the gift exchange, and participants will be notified by email to make sure everyone gets the news!

Organizers also have the option to Post A Poll to allow the group to vote on options related to the exchange (like should we serve cake or cookies for dessert at the party?)

Remind your participants to make some wishes as they Discover Great Gifts to share ideas for their perfect gift!

Happy Elfing!