It’s that time again. Maybe you’re caught by surprise, or maybe this is the year that you really want to roll out something that is absolutely perfect for your loved one. You’re seeing promise in this relationship, or being reminded of why you married your spouse many years ago. Valentine’s Day can be tricky, but we’re here for you with these inspired ideas.
1. Print up a stunning photo book
Here is an easy, fun and deeply sentimental way to touch your valentine’s heart. Make a small book (save the big whole-relationship album for another time). Choose your favorite dozen or so photos — 20 at the most. Avoid obsessing too much about creating a perfect work of art. Just get those memories off to the publisher and onto the page.
Many websites in the photo-book publishing game do such a good job that you literally can’t mess it up. Popular photo-book sites, include Shutterfly, Blurb, Pinhole Press, Mixbook, Montage and MyPublisher. For reviews of these services and valuable tips on assembling photo books, check out this article in the Washington Post. When you’ve decided which service to use, sign up at the site for discount codes and free shipping deals to defray your costs.
2. Give adventures together
Give a blank book — as simple as an empty notebook — and adorn the cover with a photo of the two of you. On page one, inscribe a promise — something like this: “Let’s fill this book with happy memories together.” List the events and experiences you are promising to provide throughout the year. It could be as few as two or three in total, or as many as one a month.
Get the gift started by attaching a pair of tickets to a page, or write in your plan for the first event. Go big or go small. Treat your beloved to a snowshoeing excursion and picnic. Or to dinner and a night at the opera. Don’t let a tight budget slow you down. You might hire a babysitter to watch the kids while you take your beloved to the movies, meet her for her work break with a picnic, or rent a cottage and spend a weekend together at the sea.
Throughout the year, keep filling the book with photos and mementoes of your time together. Add printouts, scribbles, hand-made art and anything else that sparks memories. Bonus points for parents who can stick with their plans.
3. Instant-print camera
Give your sweetheart a little instant-print camera to document your fun together. Shoot a photo and the camera instantly produces a printed picture. Polaroid cameras were “the” thing a generation or two ago, and these novelty cameras are making a comeback.
The Wirecutter, which reviews and recommends tools and gear, says the Fujifilm Instax Mini 50S (around $86 at Amazon) is “the best instant camera.” Its photos are pint-sized, though. See the review for other instant-print camera choices.
- Single Malt Scotch Cordials
- Maple Bourbon Caramels
- Cuba Libre
- Pale Ale Pints
- After Dinner Caviar
- Chocolate Bacon Pretzels
- Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
- Chocolate Bacon Toffee
Or assemble your own gift box of candies on the Sugarfina site.
5. Delicious bed sheets
Among life’s sexiest pleasures is sliding into a freshly made bed of good-quality sheets. A high price tag is optional. The Sweethome, which tests and reviews household products, recommends two reasonably priced products: L.L.Bean’s 280-thread-count Pima Cotton Percale Sheets ($35 for a queen fitted sheet) and JCPenney’s sateen Royal Velvet 400-thread-count WrinkleGuard Sheet Set ($69.99 for the set) for “the best combination of softness, durability, and reasonable price for most people.”
Maybe cotton sheets aren’t your idea of luxury. Then try silk sheets, or silky bamboo. Downy soft flannel sheets also are to die for if you live in a chillier climate. The Sweethome reviews those, too, recommending L.L.Bean’s Ultrasoft Comfort Flannel Sheet Set ($99 queen set) and Target’s Threshold Flannel Sheet Set ($29 queen).
Protect your baby from the elements with the gift of a red heart-shaped umbrella. What a lovely way to say, “You are cherished.” About $35 at Amazon.
A fish-finding electronic tool is not most people’s idea of a romantic gift. But, oh, your favorite angler will love you for Deeper, a bluetooth fish locator (starting at about $220, at The Grommet).
Attach the remote sensor to a fishing line and cast it into the water. As The Grommet says, it is:
… designed to go anywhere, sending images and information about the waters below straight to your phone or tablet. See water depth, location and size of fish, the contour of the water bed, forecasts and more.
Here is an utterly romantic gift. Taline Levonian, who sells these artistic voice prints, makes them by generating graphical representations of sound waves from a recording. The image above ($75, at ArtsyVoiceprint) is of a voice saying “I love you.” Send her an audio file of your words and she creates the art from it. Levonian came up with the idea in 2013 while thinking of a keepsake from her own wedding. On her website she recalls:
“After days of brainstorming and playing around with ideas, I designed a unique piece using the audio of our wedding vows. The sound waves evoked the emotions of that special moment in a deeply personal yet simple way. I fell in love with the idea.”
Bacon lovers, rejoice! Give your honey a Bacon All Year Club subscription ($400, free shipping) from Zingerman’s, the venerable Ann Arbor, Michigan, deli. Each monthly delivery of 12 to 16 ounces of artisan bacon arrives with bacon stories, histories and recipes. Your beloved will feast on delicacies like: Kentucky Dry-Cured Bacon, Juniper & Thyme Bacon, Spencer’s Irish-Style Back Bacon, Arkansas Peppered Bacon, Hickory Smoked Duroc Bacon, Indiana Jowl Bacon and Hungarian Double Smoked Bacon.
Use your own photos to create 15 custom beer bottle labels immortalizing your love. At Pinhole Press ($11.99).
It’s hard to go wrong sending a delivery of small-batch ice cream right to your honey’s door. For chocoholics, try Choctal, which concentrates solely on chocolate and vanilla with single-source cacao or vanilla ingredients ($11 a pint). Should it be Ghana chocolate? Kalimantan chocolate? Costa Rican chocolate? Or Dominican chocolate? An exquisite dilemma. Not into the chocolate-vanilla thing? This Wall Street Journal review has more ideas.
12. Cocktail bitters
If your baby is a fan of craft cocktails, give The Bitter Truth bitters bar pack. Bitters are herbal tonics used to balance out sweetness in cocktails. But, as Bon Appetite says, they also can be used to add complexity to other foods and drinks: whipped cream, coffee, homemade ice cream, fruit salad, ice cream floats and even baked goods. This bar pack ($34.99, at Amazon) includes bitters tinged with tonic, peach, olive, cucumber and chocolate. A card with recipes is included.
13. A spa night for two
Creating a luxurious, romantic spa night for two shows your honey that you really care. Start the evening off by giving him or her a massage (or maybe book massages together at a spa). Take it home with fragrant candles and DIY facials and terry cloth spa robes for two. Enjoy a bath or a hot tub together to cap the evening.
14. Buy a diamond … sensibly
Don’t start your lives together by blowing money you can’t afford — or worse, going into debt — on a big, showy rock. You can do this right and still stay sane. Here’s eBay’s guide on “How to Buy a Diamond Engagement Ring on a Budget.” Also, consider an authentic synthetic diamond.
15. Proposing? Consider going all-out
Over-the-top marriage proposals are in vogue, especially around Valentine’s Day. Done right, they can be adorable. I defy you to watch this 2012 classic without a hanky. More inspiration: See The Knot’s favorite wedding proposal videos.
Be careful, though. For one thing, not everyone is wild about fabulously big public displays. Before going big, be pretty certain this is something your beloved would enjoy.
Oh, and be sure he or she does wants to marry you. Or suffer the consequences. Like this tale, from The Huffington Post’s “9 Failed Marriage Proposals That Will Make You Cringe“:
“He proposed in the middle of a Tim Hortons parking lot with a bread twist-tie. I was 18, but thankfully not an idiot.”
… or this story, from Cosmopolitan Magazine’s 10 worst marriage proposals of all time:
A guy I knew (a really stupid guy) got his girlfriend a diamond ring as a birthday present, not intending any larger message.
She unwrapped it and said, “Oh, Stupid Guy! Of course I will!”
He went through with it rather than deal with the awkwardness.
Do you have inspired Valentine’s gifts to recommend? Please share them with all of us in comments below or on our Facebook page.