Monday, February 11, 2008

Valentine's Day Survival Guide

Plan Ahead

With a little advance planning, you can save yourself a lot of stress and ensure a fun and romantic Valentine's Day--one where you won't be stuck without a reservation or paying too much for a rush delivery of flowers. It goes without saying, but restaurants are flooded with reservation requests for that night, so book early at your favorite romantic spot, or at that hot new bistro. If you leave yourself a little more time, you can also find a more personal gift, such as cuff links, a locket or a watch engraved with your lover's initials or a special message. It doesn't have to be about how much you spend, either: Putting a little time in can make a gift that is far more personal and meaningful than flowers, roses, candy, and even jewelry. Consider framing a photograph of the two of you, writing a silly love poem or making a scrapbook of photos and mementos of your relationship. Or just plan to make dinner at home, complete with champagne and candlelight; find recipes for chocolate fondue (great for sharing!) and everything else you need here "" . Finally, you don't have to wait for Valentine's Day to be romantic--give small gifts, flowers or leave notes in the days leading up to the holiday and you'll distinguish yourself from all those bouquets sent to the office on the 14th.

Big Spender

Though flowers, candy and chocolate are among the most common (and relatively inexpensive) gifts, and the true spirit of the holiday is not about how much money you spend, some of you may decide you want to shell out a little bit more for a gift--after all, nothing is too good for that special someone. For those with unlimited means--a jet? a private island?--pick from this list of outrageously expensive Valentine's Day gifts. An unusual find, such as an antique piece of jewelry, a vintage designer dress or jacket or a first-edition book, may be worth that extra money (and time) for the impact it makes. As for jewelry, diamonds are always in style for women, even if they're not going on a certain finger. Alternatively, book a long weekend away at a secluded country inn, or some fabulously exotic locale. For suggestions, check out this selection of romantic destinations.

Last Minute

Fortunately for procrastinators, the old stand-bys--flowers, candy, or at the very least a card--are all available until almost the very last minute. Those don't have to be your only options, however; you can pull out a successful Valentine's Day with just a bit more effort in the home stretch. Although the restaurants may be booked, and you might not have the time or energy to cook, you can pull together a romantic night at home just by ordering in your favorite takeout, lighting some candles and putting on some music. Afterwards, watch a romantic movie--for tips, see our list of favorites [link to Movies section]--or play Twister, Scrabble or another silly board game. For a card, skip all the canned, commercial messages and buy a blank card; it doesn't take too much time to write your own personal message inside, and it will mean far more. For inspiration, peruse this list of the

100 Greatest Love Poems or, even better, run to your local bookstore and pick up a book of love poetry (which makes a great last-minute gift). Shakespeare's sonnets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, W.H. Auden and Pablo Neruda are just a few of the most reliable choices.

Anti-Valentine's Day

If you hate all the hoopla surrounding Valentine's Day, you're not alone. Recent years have seen a boom in the anti-Valentine's Day card and merchandise market, and you can even buy t-shirts promoting February 14th as "Singles Awareness Day." If you find yourself single on Valentine's Day, or if you're in a couple and still prefer to ignore the overzealous florists, jewelers, confectioners and card makers of the world, you can still make the most of the day--or at least get through it with minimal discomfort. Couples can take the low-key approach (maybe a quiet dinner at home, a movie or a concert) while like-minded single friends can organize an anti-Valentine's Day party or outing--no red or pink or chocolate allowed. Some cities even hold a large-scale anti-Valentine's Day event (search your local listings for information). And by all means, if you're single, don't hesitate to treat yourself to a great meal, a warm bath, a funny movie or something else equally comforting and indulgent. Above all, take comfort in the fact that February 14th is, in the end, just another day.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

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