How to Throw a Favorite Things Party

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When I was in high school, I’d often find myself at home in time to catch The Oprah Winfrey Show. As intriguing as each show was, there simply was no episode that compared to the “Favorite Things Special”. Every past Oprah Winfrey Show watcher could tell you exactly what this special was about. Heck, even those who never caught a single episode have probably heard of this annual special. (Comedian Dane Cook even poked fun of the special in his stand-up act, “You get a humpback whale, you get a humpback whale, everybody gets humpback whales!”). However, in the event you have found yourself living under a rock, allow me to explain.

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What is/was the “Favorite Things Special”?

The “Favorite Things Special” was an annual holiday inspired episode where Oprah would not only list her favorite items/products of the year, but… WAIT FOR IT… she would also give EVERY audience member one of the items. From her favorite book, to her favorite set of pots and pans, to even her favorite vehicle… if it was on Oprah’s list, then her audience members were in luck.

Applying the episode to a party

Now fast forward a few years to where a few of my college besties and I decided to turn one of our favorite specials of all time into a tradition of our own. It was Christmastime and we found ourselves wanting to create some form of gift exchange. We tossed around the idea of traditional exchanges (i.e. Secret Santa, White Elephant, etc.). However, we then realized that not only did we wish to buy for everyone in our group (not just a randomly selected friend), but we also wanted the opportunity to gift our closest friends something we KNEW they’d love because we love it ourselves. And so was born our “Annual Favorite Things Party”.

How to have a “Favorite Things Party”

Now six years in, we have not only perfected the rules but have also created a tradition that we thoroughly look forward to each year. Wanting to have your own “Favorite Things Party”?… the rules are quite simple.

  1. Set a specific price limit. Generally speaking, the more participants in the party, the lower the value. We have six people in our party (including myself) which means we each will purchase and receive FIVE different gifts. As a result, we have set a $20 price cap per gift, resulting in an overall $100 allowance. 
  2. Determine (one of) your favorite items of the year that falls within this price allowance. Then purchase five (or however many participants) of those EXACT SAME items (note: items can vary slightly in color, etc. if this is in your official group rules. Also, determine if clothing is fair game. If so, then each participant should share their pants, shirt, and shoe size prior to the event so that these types of items can be purchased.) 
  3. Wrap all your gifts the same way. 
  4. Come up with FIVE different clues explaining your “favorite thing” gift. These clues are meant to stump the other participants as much as possible with each consecutive clue getting more and more obvious/easy as it leads to the final reveal. 
  5. Now it is officially time to play the game! You will want to determine your order of gift givers. Whether drawing straws, the order of birthdays, or volunteering… determine who will go first. 
  6. The first gift giver will now display their wrapped gifts to all the other participants. 
  7. Now the gift giver will read their first clue. After reading their first clue, allow every participant to have one guess. If they happen to guess correctly, the questions are over and everyone gets to open their gift. If they guess incorrectly, the gift giver moves onto clue number two, three, four, and five. (Note: for an additional twist, we have been known to involve adult beverages into this game. Every incorrect guess warrants a drink.) If by the end of clue 5 no one has guessed the item, then the gift giver gets to surprise all the participants when they open the present. 
  8. Now that the gift is open the gift giver can explain exactly why this is their favorite gift. 
  9. The next participant now starts with their clues and the same sequence continues until the end. 
  10. By the end of the game, all participants not only have a collection of gifts, but they are guaranteed to have great quality items that are loved by those they love most.

Stumped on what to give?

I can not speak highly enough about just how exciting it is to receive a gift that a friend/family member of yours is so passionate about. I can say with 100% honesty that every single one of the gifts given to me through the years has now become staples in my household, wardrobe, etc.

Here are a few past gifts given in our parties to help you brainstorm: FAVORITE coffee, coffee mug, socks, underwear, tote bag, necklace, watercolor paint kit, dish scrubbing brush, card subscription box, wine glass drying towel, mittens, nail polish, memory pillow, pan, magazine subscription, decorative napkins, exfoliating mitt, face wash, essential oil diffuser, spatulas, work-out top, etc.

Customizing your OWN “Favorite Things Party”

In the years since we have created our party, we have not only perfected our own version but also added additional fun twists. Along with our “favorite” gifts, we have now included our “favorite” appetizers with every participant bringing their favorite snack to enjoy during the party.

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Additionally, I have shared this tradition with several others. While several have implemented it in exact detail, others have expanded upon and customized it to their own needs (and NOT just as a holiday tradition). In fact, one specific family member has decided to utilize this game as part of a family reunion. Given there are a large number of participants, she has decided to cap the value of each gift at $5 and host it during the summer months.

The absolute beauty of this game is that it truly allows you to give a gift that you not only would love to receive yourself but that you actually HAVE and utilize perhaps even daily.

Looking to have a “Favorite Things Party” of your own? How would YOU customize it? I would love to hear in the comments below!

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  1. I used to watch Oprah every now and then in HS too! Love her favorite things in her mag now, on the rare occasion I see it. I’m so excited about this idea, really! I plan on rounding up a few girlfriends next month to do it! Thank you, Lindsay!!! Visiting from the Mommy blog hop.

  2. This actually sounds brilliant. What a lovely idea and I love how well thought out your rules/guidelines are.
    I have a group of friends (7 of us) and we tend to just do birthday gifts throughout the year instead of Christmas gifts, just to keep costs down, but next time we get together I’ll suggest maybe next year we could do things differently and give this a try instead.

  3. This sounds like so much fun! I get together every Christmas with 5 girlfriends and we do a general grab bag. This is so much better. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Ok, this may sound silly, but for a long time I’ve been wondering how this works. An old co-worker of mine does this every year for Christmas with her friends and I love this tradition and wanted to start it with mine, but had no idea. I felt like ever time I search it, I couldn’t find directions. lol. Well, I’m glad I found you. Thanks for sharing.

  5. This sounds like so much fun! And so much easier than trying to figure out what you’re friends would want. You just give them all something you love, and receive things they love in return. I can’t wait to try it.

  6. Fun tips! I went to a Favorite Things party once and it was a lot of fun. This would be great to do with with the moms in your child’s class or on their sports team as a way to get to know one another better. Visiting from Dishing It Digging It party.

  7. Well am I the only one that has been living under a rock all these years. This is such a fun idea to share our favorite things with our party guests. Love it.

    1. I’m so glad you like it, Kate! Ugh, I hear you on the bedtime fiasco! My husband and I were just saying that we need to cut down on the time this takes every night! Best of luck!

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