Valentine’s Day Etiquette Tips

Valentine’s Day was first established during the days of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages when the tradition of courtly love flourished. (See more on the history of Valentine’s Day here:

Now, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world and has become yet another media and product sales frenzy, much the same as celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. What’s important to me is not to buy into all the hype. Stick to celebrating this day as it was originally intended, to acknowledge the love and affection you have for another.

If you’re not in a relationship – or even if you are — you can also celebrate the day with friends, co-workers and family. Valentine’s Day is no longer reserved for lovers, and it doesn’t matter who initiates the invitation. It’s all about how you extend the invitation and execute the celebration. It’s as my good friend Bob Meyer says, “Good, clean, fun is the best!” Here are some guidelines:

1.  To send a card to a person you hardly know: There is nothing wrong with sending or giving someone a Valentine’s card or even a small gift of friendship on this day. The key is to keep the card and gift light-hearted and not expensive. A simple gesture of friendship without any heavy-duty message shows you care. It would be most inappropriate to use this day to surprise someone to express your innermost feelings about your “secret love.” Ease into it in other ways.

2.  To invite someone out: When you don’t know the person well, or have only dated a few times, do not assume the person will want to see you on this particular day. Approach it subtlety by asking, “Gosh, Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, is this something you enjoy celebrating?” Whether the reply is yes or no, if you choose to ask the person out, do it in a light-hearted and non-threatening manner. Keep in mind this is merely another time to have fun together and nothing more serious.

3.  To celebrate with co-workers: Look upon this day as yet another opportunity to have a party at work. Keep it light, and use all the fun items kids share in schools, like kid’s Valentine’s Day cards and heart-shaped cookies. It can be a great way to build closer friendships among co-workers. A company I know celebrates almost every holiday. On the Friday before Mother’s and Father’s Day, the company holds a special lunch, where all mothers and fathers are invited to bring in family photos and share kid stories.

4.  To celebrate with family: How about sending your parents and grandparents a Valentine’s card? I remember doing it as a kid. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you have to forget showing how much you love and care about them.

5.  To celebrate with someone special:  Steer away from giving a heart-shaped box of chocolates and red roses, unless you know the person well and know for sure the person enjoys them. Find out what the person likes and give something he or she will enjoy. For me, instead of chocolates, I’d love a nicely wrapped package of designer potato chips. A small item for the home or kitchen is fine too. As for what to do, why not simply ask, “What would you enjoy doing?” Perhaps give a few options, such as a light bite and a movie. Inviting the person to your apartment may be too intimate and must be handled carefully to be appropriate. If I had a male friend, I would be concerned about giving the wrong impression by being together on this day alone.  Going out in a group may be the best choice until you choose to become closer friends.

6.  To those “going steady”: This is where Valentine’s Day can be more serious. The etiquette here is to give your counterpart something meaningful you know she or he will enjoy and cherish. It is the time to share words of love and affection and to reaffirm your dedication to the other person. It is not the day for to discuss your relationship and what isn’t working well.

7.  To husbands and wives: Plan a celebration according to both your likes and desires, whether it’s a weekend getaway or something as simple as an intimate dinner for two at home. Ron and I enjoy celebrating almost all holidays by staying home and cooking a great meal together. That’s our idea of fun. Statistics show that married couples who cook together have a greater chance of remaining happily married. I’m glad we both enjoy cooking!

8.  To those who are single: It’s easy to feel left out, so plan something that evening with a group of other single friends so you won’t be home alone, such as an evening of cocktails and dinner. I did this before I was married, and one time our group had a fun gift exchange of small boxes of chocolates. Each person brought a box and we each got one to bring home.

Most of all, however you celebrate the day, do it with full consideration, respect, and honesty. This is what etiquette is all about.