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 a registry to guide you and without the formal invitation, the gift-giving rules become a bit more relaxed and plunge us into unknown territory.
"You’re not required to give a gift," clarifies Elaine Swann, wedding etiquette expert and founder of The Swann School of Protocol. "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 them 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 The Swann School of Protocol and author of Let Crazy Be Crazy.
If you're unsure of whether to send a gift and exactly what gift to send, here's a guide answering your every question on sending a wedding gift to a couple that has eloped.
Elopement Gift Etiquette
Should You 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 of one or both parties. 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 them your heartfelt congratulations instead.
When to 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 after you’ve found out about it," says Swann. Much like any gift-giving scenario in life, Swann says as soon as possible and as soon as you're able is a good rule of thumb.
How Much to 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.
There's definitely less pressure to spend as much as you would at a big wedding celebration where you factor in the expenses of the couple when buying a gift.
Other Questions on Gift-Giving
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, Swann says 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 far as 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 whether you found out the same time as everyone else on the socials, it shouldn't really make much of a difference where you learned about the news. 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 still try to send a wedding gift.
What If I'm Feeling Resentful and Excluded?
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, elopement 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’s coming together and embrace that as opposed to how you feel about their union," she says.
Wedding Gift Ideas for Elopers
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, luxe pajamas, or a beautiful frame to hang in their home are all great classic gifts to honor the occasion.
Treat the newlyweds to dinner to celebrate with them 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 for when they host dinners.
If You're Stuck, Ask Them
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'll love—and use! If you want to be sneakier, you can ask their close friends and family members for ideas on items they might need.
Some couples who elope do decide to put together a registry, especially if they're planning to have a reception with family and friends at a later date. In that case, their registry information will be shared by family members or on their wedding website, so keep an eye out for that link!
Give Them Cash
"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% 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.