Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and, if you’re all coupled up, it seems pretty standard enough – roses, chocolates, teddy bear and done, right?

Wrong.

Despite the overly commercialised hype of Valentine’s Day as the years go by, doing the cookie cutter thing isn’t really original, not exactly thoughtful and could even annoy the one you love if you haven’t been paying attention.

No matter which way you spin it, Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love. And – if you have been paying attention – celebrating true love should be easy enough, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” item on your to-do list.

First of all, ask yourself:

Is my partner a grand gesture type of person, or is he/she more low-key and appreciative of the little things?

 I mean, does your special someone even like flowers and chocolates? Yes, we could argue that it’s the thought that counts, if it’s for the one you love, then there should be some effort behind that thought. Effort, mind you, does not have to equal money. After all, what’s the point of spending big on something your significant other won’t like or even use?

I remember a time an ex-boyfriend bought me a rather pricey Elizabeth Taylor perfume. Now, don’t get me wrong, I totally appreciated the gesture, but the scent was so heavy, so stuffy and overpowering – like a super mature lady-of-a-certain-age kind of overpowering – that I wondered if he had picked it based on price tag alone. And I was only 22. Honestly, the scent was nauseating. I knew I was never going to wear it. Believe me, I tried. But it was also somewhat disappointing that after almost three years together, he had no idea of – or hadn’t taken the time to learn – my taste. Unless, of course, he actually wanted me to smell like that, which makes this scenario – and that relationship – a real problem.

Perfumes and colognes are pretty sacred personal items. People tend to be loyal to one, maybe two, scents or brands. If your partner is one of these people, you should already know this. Some people don’t wear any fragrances at all; they are perfectly happy with their soap/body wash/deodorant combo, and that’s fine as well.

There was a time I thought I was being super sexy by giving my lover a full body massage, only to later learn that he wasn’t fond of creams and lotions and hated the way they felt on his skin. He also hadn’t said anything in order to not hurt my feelings or cause an awkward moment. I, in turn, realized – in my embarrassment – that what I thought was enjoyable was not necessarily the case for the other person involved. You see, this incident caused me to start paying more attention to the details.

Getting to know the one you love requires a degree of listening mixed with a degree of perception, or self-directed learning. Take a glance at your person’s dresser, their bathroom cabinet or workspace and I promise you will learn a lot. Consider that she may not like flowers simply because she’s allergic to them. And if she does like flowers, the least you could do is get the right ones! Every woman who likes flowers has a favourite. Trust me. Mine happens to be orchids, and I’d much rather receive a gorgeous orchid plant to bring ongoing beauty into my personal space than an obscure bouquet of a random flower that will wilt in a matter of days. And smell funny.

But that’s just me.

There are, indeed, some women – and some men, I’m sure – who live for the yearly ritual that is Valentine’s Day and, honestly, if you have a partner that is easily satisfied with gifts of “the hype”, then you don’t really need to be reading this, do you? You lucky thing!

My point is: love is a verb. Loving your partner should really happen every day in a thousand little ways, but, just in case life gets too busy and we do forget, I think it’s nice that there is this yearly reminder to “show it” instead of assuming that they already “know it”.

If you must buy a gift, make it either useful or memorable – the kind of gift your beau won’t want to discard later down the line. Consider your love’s interests, passions, favourite activities, etc. What is his/her favourite meal and when last did you go to the place that serves it? Better yet, could you make it yourself? Never dismiss the value of a gift from the heart made by your own hands. You don’t have to be the most creative person in the world – a good old-fashioned love letter is not only rare nowadays; it costs nothing and could mean everything. For couples that have been together for some time, a little trip down memory lane to some of the most enjoyable moments you’ve had together could work wonders. Recreate a day or date where you had a lot of fun and laughter by revisiting the place or selecting key moments of the memory – the sounds, the sights, the smells even.

If the relationship is still relatively new, keep it sweet and simple. A small gesture of affection and appreciation shows that you care without the pressure of prematurely professing your undying dedication. In this scenario, keeping the day or date fun and informal is the way to go. Use the occasion to create a memory with someone new that you can one day look back on – do something wildly different to your regular dates to really make it stand out.

If you’re really stumped for ideas, why not just ask? Yes, it is absolutely and entirely acceptable to ask the one you love if there’s anything you can do to make their day better, memorable or enjoyable. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about surprises, you know – we all know it’s coming. Whatever you do, don’t ignore the day altogether; don’t get anxious about expectations when it could be just as wonderful to plan something together – a little bit of you and a little bit of me. After all, loving and healthy relationships are about give and take, right? Personally, you can never go wrong with food, whether you’re trying it, buying it or making it. And ladies, since guys can be so darn difficult to shop for, especially on a romantic and often “sappy” occasion such as Valentine’s Day, let me just say that I have yet to meet a man who doesn’t appreciate when his woman treats herself instead of him, to something lacy that he can also benefit from… if you get my drift.

In the words of one of my brides: “You think you don’t like Valentine’s Day until you actually get to experience expressions of love with someone who counts and makes you count on that day.” I think those are some beautiful words to remember, even for those V-Day scrooges out there – myself included. If you happen to be “alone” for the hype, take the time to let the people you do love know you appreciate them. It may sound like a condolence prize for not having a significant other, but whoever made this a day for couples alone was greatly mistaken, and Lord knows we could all do with a little more love.

ADRIANA WED FEATURE WRITER

Darcel De Vlugt is an award-winning Caribbean designer who specialises in custom pieces for women who love classic style with a contemporary feel. Darcel is the newest contributor to Adriana Weddings, and also the founder & lead designer at Van der Vlugt, a designer brand for custom-created womenswear pieces for red carpet, bridal and special occasions. Check out her Facebook page here.

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