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How to host a 'favorite things party,' according to people who've actually done it

There’s a new MVP (most valuable party) in Yuletide town.

Did your white elephant and Secret Santa party invitations get lost in the mail this year? Likely not. 

While White Elephant (when people exchange silly and amusing gifts) and Secret Santa (when you're randomly assigned a person to buy a gift for and their identity is kept hidden until they open it) parties are still wildly popular, there’s a new themed party taking over TikTok: a "favorite things party."

It's exactly what it sounds like: Party guests show up with their favorite item from the last year — a kitchen gadget they use daily, a beauty find they can't stop gushing about, a cozy item that keeps them warm all winter long and so on.

“It’s a great idea because you get to share a favorite item with your friends, knowing they will probably love them as well,” content creator Megan Dayne tells TODAY.com.

Ahead, a look at what exactly a favorite things party is and how you can host one this holiday season (and all the months to follow).

What is a favorite things party?

As teacher and TikToker Harlianne Alampi puts it, a favorite things party “is the newer, cooler, more up-to-date version of the tried-and-true Christmas cookie exchange.”

Party hosts can set their own rules and budgets. Alampi asks her guests to you buy the same gift for everyone at the party, noting that this should be something in your life that you use often and adore. “By the end of the party, everyone leaves with a handful of new ‘favorite things,’” Alampi tells TODAY.com.

If your party is on the bigger side, Dayne says you can scale it back by having each guest buy only three of the same item. “To host a favorite things party, you first need to set a price point with your friend group,” Dayne says, noting that the recent party she was a part of had a $20 budget.

Chat with your guests to gauge if you want to go this route of only buying three gifts per attendee or if they'd rather bring guests for everyone attending (for parties of five people or under, this might be fine for your wallet).

How to host a favorite things party 

Feeling inspired to throw your own? Keep these guidelines in mind when hosting a favorite things party.

Set a budget.

Let's be clear: The goal of the party isn’t to break the bank but inspire cheer and holiday merriment amongst all. “Set a budget. Remember, you are buying the same gift for everyone at the party, so five people means five of the same gift,” Alampi says.

Budgets may vary by the size and closeness of your friend group, but Alampi says her friends "agreed on $10-$15 per gift."

Know your audience.

A general rule of thumb for gift-giving: Know who you are shopping for. For example, Alampi’s friends are all women of the same age. “At this point in our lives, we all know what the other likes and have similar interests. This made it easy when coming up with a gift idea,” she says. “My gift idea would drastically change if I was not buying for a group of 24-year-old girls who I’ve known since I was 14.”

Settle on a gift.

Party hosts, your gift sets the tone for the party. “You’re the host, so it has to be the best,” Alampi says. The pressure may be on, but we’re confident you’ll find something great.  

Dayne recommends the following gifts:

  • Beauty, skincare and hair products
  • Water bottles or tumblers
  • Home goods like wine glasses, candles or blankets
  • Cosmetic or travel pouches
  • Tech accessories

Alampi's favorite gift picks are as follows:

  • Lip gloss or balm
  • Hair accessories like headbands, claw clips or dry shampoo
  • Your favorite scent
  • Everyday jewelry
  • Your favorite flavor of something
  • Socks
  • An item in your favorite color
  • Your favorite book

If you need more inspiration, check out these budget-friendly gifts for foodies, beauty lovers, pets and more — all under $25.

Surprise 'em.

“To make the party more of a surprise, similar to the traditional white elephant party, don't share what you're planning to bring,” says Dayne. This way, when the party kicks off and people present their gifts to the crowd, “it feels like a true present that you weren’t expecting.”

Keep it simple.

When hosting a favorite things party, your guests will appreciate simple, straightforward directions on how to proceed. “When it comes to planning, keep it simple,” Alampi says, adding that she sent her friends a flyer beforehand to explain the rules. “Since these parties are fairly new, I included pictures and examples to keep things foolproof and stress-free,” she says.

Map out a plan.

Sure, you could just make it a free-for-all situation, but it’s a good idea to add some structure to the festivities. That’s why Dayne suggests each friend takes a turn presenting their item and explaining why they brought it. “Everyone can ask questions about the item and sometimes even demonstrate it. For additional fun, you could even prepare PowerPoint presentations!”

When it comes time to pick out the items, if you’re following Dayne’s directives to buy three of the same item, lay everything out on a table and organize them in order in which everyone will select their gifts. “You will have three rounds of picking. In every round, each item is only allowed to be chosen one time — this eliminates the chance a certain item is gone after one round,” Dayne says.

Make an event out of it.

It goes without saying, but your favorite things party should be a blast. Follow Alampi’s lead and go to town wrapping the gifts you’ve selected, and as the host, get creative with the decorations and soundtrack, too.