In addition to helping couples prepare for their lives together, sending a wedding gift is a great way to congratulate the newlyweds on the exciting step they've taken. But what if your friends have opted to skip the big to-do of a wedding? Couples planning to elope often don't put together wedding registries. And without the formal invitation or a registry to guide you, the gift-giving rules become a bit more relaxed and plunge us into unknown territory.
"You’re not required to give a gift," clarifies lifestyle and wedding etiquette expert Elaine Swann. "However, it is a nice gesture to send a gift to the bride and groom to wish them well on the start of their new stage of life." Once the news breaks that they've tied the knot, sending a gift is a great way to share your excitement.
Meet the Expert
Elaine Swann is a lifestyle and wedding etiquette expert. She is the founder of Swann School of Protocol and author of Let Crazy Be Crazy.
If you're unsure about sending a present and what makes good wedding gifts for elopers, here's a guide answering your every question on sending a wedding gift to a couple that has eloped.
Elopement Gift Etiquette
Should you send a gift? Is it rude not to? When do you give it? And do you spend the same as you would if you attended their wedding? A lot of questions come up when a couple elopes, and the answers to the most common ones are below.
Should I give a gift to a couple who eloped?
Unlike being invited to a physical wedding, there's a lot less pressure to give a present to a couple who eloped. They didn't spend on a big, formal bash, after all. But while it's definitely not a requirement, it's a great deed, especially if you're a close friend or family member. A gift, even a small one, would be appreciated and is a great way to share in their union, even if you weren't physically there. If a couple specifically asks friends and family to refrain from giving gifts, you may respect their wishes and send your heartfelt congratulations instead.
When do I give the gift?
It's totally possible that you only find out about a friend's elopement weeks, or even months, after the fact. So if it's been a while since their wedding, don't worry; you're not too late and can definitely still send a token. "Some people don't realize that the person has eloped. My recommendation is to send a gift just as soon as you can," says Swann.
How much should I spend?
The closer you are to someone, the more you can spend on a gift for them. Swann says increments of $25 should be added the stronger your relationship is. "A great amount for your coworkers is $20 to $25. Just go to $50 as you get to know the person a little bit more," she says. If you're a friend or family member, that's when you can spend $100 or more.
It's okay to spend less than you would if you attended the wedding. When there's a big celebration, you factor in the expenses of the couple when buying a gift.
What if we're not that close?
Swann uses the onion, with its many layers, as a metaphor to gauge closeness in relation to gift-giving. For friends who are on the outer layers of the onion, like coworkers or acquaintances, it's perfectly fine to just send a congratulatory message or even comment on the social media announcement post. The closer you are to the couple and the closer you peel off those metaphorical layers, the more investment you could put into a gift. "For example, a family member or a close friend should make an effort to send a gift. If it’s a coworker or an acquaintance, then that’s where you can go for an emoji thumbs up or even a card should you choose to do so," says Swann.
What if I just found out on social media?
Whether you were told privately or found out on the socials, it shouldn't really make much of a difference. Gift-giving is based on your relationship and closeness to the couple, so try not to take offense in the manner in which you found out. If it really bothers you, you may bring it up with the couple privately, but don't use it as a reason not to send a gift if you otherwise would have.
What should I do if I feel left out?
It's completely normal to feel a little sad—betrayed even—if you didn't get to be a part of a life event you really wanted to witness. Remember, when couples elope—whether it's due to a budget constraint or a spur-of-the-moment decision—it isn't intended to exclude anyone. "That feeling of frustration, that is going to happen. It’s OK to feel a little left out or even just a little jealous that you weren’t a part of it," says Swann. "Take your emotions out of it and really look at the celebration of the couple coming together, and embrace that," she says.
Wedding Gift Ideas for Elopers
You've decided the gift is appropriate, and you know how much you'd like to spend. But you have no idea what to buy. Here are a few ideas.
Go the classic route
Many couples who elope don't make registries. If you'd like to surprise them with a present that you know they'll love, go the more traditional route. A great bottle of Champagne or a beautiful frame to hang in their home are great classic gifts to honor the occasion.
Treat the newlyweds to dinner to celebrate or buy them gift certificates to their favorite restaurant. You can also buy them treats and classes they might want to experience as newlyweds, like a couple's massage at a spa or a mixology class.
If you're stuck, ask them what they'd like
You could also ask them if there's something, in particular, they've been saving up for, whether it's a new gadget for their kitchen or a roomier tent to take on their next camping excursion. Sure, it won't be a surprise, but you'll be happy to know you've gotten them something they love—and use! If you want to be sneakier, ask their close friends and family members for ideas.
Keep an eye out for a registry link. Some couples who elope do put together a registry, especially if they're planning to have a reception at a later date. The link may be shared by family members or be on their wedding website.
"For couples who do not have a registry, my recommendation is to give them a gift of money for three different reasons," says Swann. "One, it’s the only gift that you know for sure is going to be accepted and used. Two, there is a study that was done by Zelle that says 84 percent of couples prefer to receive money as opposed to a physical gift. And three, the gift of money was reserved for a variety of cultures, but now it’s becoming more commonplace to send money, and it’s absolutely acceptable to do so." No matter the reason they've eloped, cash gifts are always appreciated and are a great fall-back if you aren't sure what to get.