Here at Primer we’ve always preached one core principle of Valentine’s Day: Valentine's Day is about showing how much you care by showing how well you know your partner.
What It's About
- Being thoughtful & romantic
- Celebrating your connection
- Not substituting money for effort
What It's Not
- Doing what’s expected
- Getting gouged by merchants
- Leaning on money instead of effort
You can dazzle your partner without two dozen roses ($100+ around V-day). You can celebrate your connection without going out to eat at a hectic restaurant. Empty gestures beget empty responses – and that’s not what you’re about. You can give them something to remember without actually giving them much stuff at all.
With a little planning, effort, and follow-through, you can absolutely smash Valentine’s day. But we get it: you’re busy, or not sure where to start, or this isn’t your strong suit. It’s cool. We got you.
Check out our classic guide to crafting a flawless Valentine’s experience at home. Then check out these 11 bulletproof gift ideas you can follow to the letter, mix & match, or use as inspiration to create your very own super-special Valentine’s.
1. Edible Flowers Bouquet
The Anti-Dozen Roses
You should never buy flowers for Valentine's Day. They're overpriced during this time and so expected as to be almost meaningless.
Instead, craft an arrangement of edible flowers and herbs, and then use it to make a delicious meal. Edible flowers are regularly used in high-end restaurants to add flavor in interesting ways, and an edible bouquet is unexpected, highly visual, and not hard to assemble.
After presenting the bouquet, explain how you’re using elements of it in a meal. Mint in a before-dinner cocktail; arugula flowers and marigolds in a salad; roast chicken with rosemary; combine lavender and vanilla ice cream for dessert. There are lots of edible flower recipes available, so it’s a good idea to source your flowers & herbs and then brainstorm your menu.
This guide has an extensive list of edible flowers with some health warnings (Only eat a flower if you know what it is!), and here are some flower & flavor suggestions from Good Housekeeping:
- Arugula Flowers: Peppery flavor; Use in salads or other savory dishes
- Hibiscus: Tart and sweet. Often used in teas, cocktails, and salads
- Nasturtiums: Peppery flavor and golden hue. Try them on crostini with olive oil, salt, and pepper
- Squash Blossoms: Mild raw squash taste. Usually cooked before eaten. Lightly dust with cornstarch and deep fry
The best place to find edible flowers is your local farmer’s market (difficult this time of year), but premium grocery stores like Whole Foods will have some. Herbs are easier – many are sold in bunches in the produce department. If you’re striking out locally, try online vendor Gourmet Sweet Botanicals.
If you absolutely must get flowers, check out our guide to alternative flowers that will wow her without being part of the global Roses-on-Valentines scam. Also keep in mind that if given at all, flowers should only be given alongside something else and should not be considered a gift. It's an accoutrement.
2. Cheat Day Food Tour
The Anti-Fancy Restaurant
While everyone else is dropping three figures for an overpriced, underwhelming Valentine’s Day dinner, go out for a tour of the best local cheat day food spots. Does she love pizza? Hit three different places for a slice. Are burgers & fries the thing? Share delicious, greasy, umami-packed hamburgers from a couple different spots.
The point is to craft your own local food tour, with an emphasis on variety, contrast, and celebrating their most beloved guilty pleasure.
And don’t just use Google maps to get around: show up with a hand-drawn map of where you’re going, and a bottle of Tums for a laugh.
3. Chocolate-Making Class
The Anti-Box of Chocolates
Forget that most stale, tired, and lazy of Valentine’s gifts, the box of chocolates; learn to make artisanal chocolate instead. Sign up for an artisanal chocolate-making class that becomes an unforgettable experience.
Most medium-to-large-sized cities have a local chocolatier or culinary school that offers chocolate making classes. Work the Google & Yelp to find one near you.
4. Whiskey Flights
The Anti-Bottle of Champagne
Arguably the most complex spirit, learning about whiskey is part of the experience of enjoying it. Navigate Primer’s interactive whiskey guide to help you pick a region or style of whiskey and purchase 3-4 bottles for a distinguished, at-home whiskey tasting.
For an extra touch of class, head to Amazon and pick up a flight set. Come prepared with tasting notes so you can both compare your palette to an expert write up.
If your partner isn’t into hard alcohol, consider hard apple juice instead – cider. Hailing from all over the world, ciders range from sweet to earthy and vinegary and everywhere in between. Check out this cider guide and hit up your local wine or spirits shop. The point is to be adventurous and have an experience that wakes up your palette!
5. Where You're From Heart Map Wall Art
The Anti-Ambiguous Gesture
Don’t make your special person guess how you feel about them – say it loud and proud with this totally free, customizable heart map wall art courtesy of Primer. With the step by step guide to adding your own places, it’s a breeze to put the city/state/unincorporated township of your birth and the place where your partner was born on either side of the heart. Another option is putting your birthplace, their birthplace, and your current city in the middle for a triptych image.
Either way, they’ll be wowed by your saavy design skills and thoughtful effort. Snag the templates here.
6. Relationship Photo-Collage
The Anti-Framed Photo
Pinhole press makes awesome framed photo collages, but you’re not about to just get one. First, collect as many photos of your relationship as you can from your phone and theirs (ask first, but be vague); dig in to your laptop; raid Facebook.
Then drop them all into a digital album using photo software of your choice (iPhoto, Google Photos, etc.) and prepare a way to screen them on Valentine’s day.
For more impact use a Chrome Stick, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku or other streaming device to put them up on your TV.
Over a home-cooked meal or favorite take-out and a bottle of wine, go through all the photos from your relationship and pick out your favorites together – then order the photo collage.
7. Meaningful Book Exchange
The Anti-Lame Card
We all have a handful of books that shaped our lives, whether it’s from childhood (The Giving Tree), adolescence (anything by Michael Crichton), or early adulthood. Pick one and give it to your partner with a handwritten note about how it was important to you.
Include in the book a gift certificate to a bookseller so they can share one of their favorite books of all time. And then read each other’s books and talk about your responses to both.
This idea especially relies on sharing the thought behind it: you want to get to know your partner in a different way, through a different lens, and sharing a treasured story is a unique way to do that.
8. Shooting Range
The Anti-Girlie Date
A proven way to build romance: do something totally new (ideally, for both of you!). Go out for an evening of target shooting at your local indoor range.
Many local ranges have a beginner’s special to bring in the curious but uninitiated. If not, consider getting an hour or two introductory lesson with a private instructor so you can both feel comfortable, safe, and learn something.
If one or both of you aren’t comfortable with firearms, sign up for an introductory boxing, MMA, or other martial arts class and do it together.
9. Old School Mixtape
The Anti-Impersonal Corporate Gift
Remember when making someone a mixed tape was the highest expression of teenage love? Get back to a more innocent, earnest era by putting together a mixtape or playlist of your favorite love/crush songs.
Spotify is an easy way to throw something together, but if you have a computer with a disc drive go the extra half-mile and burn her a physical disc. CD-R are (literally) a dime a dozen these days.
When you present it, be sure to have some stories on deck about why certain tracks are your favorite.
10. Acro Yoga Class
What’s more Anti-traditional Valentine’s Day than working out?
Acroyoga is exactly what it sounds: a movement discipline combining yoga and acrobatics. In practice, it’s the adult version of the airplane pose your parents used to do with you as a kid, which makes it perfect for couples – it’s fun, physical, and a great way to build trust and intimacy.
Look up a yoga studio offering acroyoga classes in your area, or find an acro-specific studio. It’s pretty popular, so you shouldn’t have any trouble.
11. Up Your Erotic IQ
The Anti-Cautious V-day Play
We’re fortunate to live in an era where it’s possible to find thoughtful, tasteful ways to expand our enjoyment of the oldest Valentine’s Day activity of all: sex.
While we don’t recommend making sex the sole focus of your Valentine’s day gifting, an erotically-themed gift is a great opportunity to introduce something fun, playful, and new into your relationship.
Thoughtful: Esther Perel’s excellent book Mating in Captivity is all about creating and maintaining erotic IQ. Perfect for starting conversations & sparking ideas.
Playful: Find or create a deck of cards with sexy challenges. There are plenty of good lists (NSFW) out there, and making your own means you can incorporate your ideas and thiers.
Daring: Invite them to watch some erotica together. Barcelona-based director Erika Lust’s XConfessions series is arty, steamy, and couples-friendly.