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How to plan the perfect Secret Santa with your besties

'Tis the season for Secret Santa... and all the headaches that come with it.

Okay, wait. That's like, super Grinchy. A gift exchange is obviously the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit with besties, but we can't ignore all the complications that come with it. Deciding who buys for whom, finding a heartfelt gift on a tight budget *and* picking a date on winter break when everyone can dash out of gatherings with extended relatives for a squad hang requires some serious organizational skills. 

We can't really carry the whole load for you, but we can give you a step-by-step guide that'll help you plan the best gift swap for your girls.

12 days of Christmas? Nope, 12 steps of Secret Santa. Now, 12 seems like a lot, but splitting up the work into manageable steps will relieve so much stress that you'll prob only need to check this list once instead of twice. 

1. Who's in the Secret Santa squad?

@aryana.amin

The first step is, ofc, getting a group together. You could plan it with your friend group, your volleyball team, your cousins or your neighbors.

It'll be hard to add in people once assignments have been done, so make sure you carefully include everyone from the get-go. Also, pro tip: Ensure your gift-giving squad is an even number so everyone can give and receive! 

2. Make that group chat! 

How can you make sure to communicate all the little details about Secret Santa? A group chat is just the easiest way to make sure everyone can keep up with updates, even with busy holiday schedules. And stay tuned, this step will be even more important later on...

3. Save the date


@itsgretawilson

It's your hosting era, so you might as well fully embrace it. Find a date around Christmas that everyone can attend, and make some cute invites on Canva (or crafted by hand!).

If there's anyone who *really* can't make it to any of the dates, arrange a time for an in-person gift delivery.

Whatever dates you set, you'll want to be thinking about shipping times for people who order gifts online, so have these convos with your group at least two weeks in advance of your party. 

4. Set the rules

Although rules aren't very festive, they're a good way to make sure your merry gift exchange goes off without a hitch!

One rule we stand by? No gift cards. They're too impersonal—and it's no fun if your Secret Santa gives you a gift card while you buy your giftee a super heartfelt present. Another good rule is no switches! You get who you get––this helps avoid confusion and prevents any potential spoilers of who has whom.

You can't forget price limits. Having a budget of say, $30, will make it all much fairer. 

5. Assignments


@carolinemanning

You can give assignments the traditional way by having each girl in your group write her name on a piece of paper, put it in a hat and draw names. Another option? Look for a Secret Santa app or website that has a systematic way of organizing everyone.

6. Get to know each other

So you know who you're shopping for...but you realize you don't *really* know her that well.

The solution? Have everyone send in some preferences in the group chat! You can customize what these will look like for your group, but some examples could be favorite candy, favorite scent or favorite store. 

7. Your gift 


@mel.amartinez

Now that everyone has a starting point for each others' gift prefs, you can go shopping! Even though shopping with your besties is always a good time, this may be the time to go solo so you don't risk finding out who your friends are shopping for. And of course, once you've secured your gift, wrap it so it's ready for the party. 

8. Pick the Christmas playlist


@taylorswift

Now we get into party planning. It'll be so much easier to envision the mood of your party if you make a playlist first. For example, maybe you've been listening to Sabrina Carpenter's new holiday EP non-stop, and you realize a girly, pink, sugar plum fairy-approved party would be so cute. 

9. Prep the party space

'Twas the morning of the Secret Santa party, which means decorate, decorate, decorate! And you'll probably want to set up an area where everyone will be able to see for the easiest and smoothest gift exchange possible. 

10. Decorate cookies


@itsgretawilson

You'll want to have plenty of activities on your party agenda in addition to the gift reveals. What's more festive than baking and decorating Christmas cookies? This is such a fun way to bond with your girls *and* gives you yummy snacks to eat while you give your gifts. 

11. Exchange gifts!

Right before you give gifts, you can ask if anyone thinks she can guess who her Secret Santa is. If she guesses correctly, her Secret Santa can go ahead and give her her gift to start the exchange. If no one can guess, someone can volunteer to go first. Next, her giftee will give her gift. Keep doing that until all the presents have been handed out. 

12. Christmas movie night

Once you've got your girls, cookies, music and gifts, you're ready to settle in for the night. If your Secret Santa celebration is a slumber party (as the best ones are!), end the night with a Christmas movie to get you in the holiday spirit. 

And with that, you did it– you successfully organized Secret Santa! But we hope you had fun along the way, too. 

Check out these posts to get in the holiday spirit!

๐ŸŽ„Holiday traditions to start this year
๐ŸŽ„Holiday makeup trends you *have* to try this season
๐ŸŽ„Holiday light drive-thru shows are the *ultimate* safe new tradition

Slider image: @lavendercashewmilklatte
Top image: @jennyhan

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by Grace Walker and Kayla Conroy | 12/1/2023
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