Valentine’s Day Etiquette: tips to choosing appropriate gifts.

Romantic History

The feast of Saint Valentine has come a long way since its origins, which are shrouded in mystery.

Some historians believe it stems from an ancient Roman fertility rite celebrated in early spring. Once adopted by the Roman Catholic Church, the feast of Saint Valentine was probably inspired by three separate holy men named Valentine who reportedly performed acts of kindness and selflessness.

In the Middle Ages, February 14th was believed to be the beginning of the mating season for birds so the day became associated with romantic love. This is where the traditional Valentine’s symbol of doves is thought to come from. People began to write each other love notes on that day, in the French and English fashion of courtly love at the time.

Modern-day celebrations

By the 19th Century, the sending of mass-produced cards to mark St Valentine’s Day was common practice, and of course, nowadays a huge range of all manner of red and pink merchandise hits the shops as soon as Christmas is out of the way! Read more about the fascinating history of Valentine’s Day here.

Valentine’s Day does hold a special place for lovers, but it can be marked by everyone. It’s not just a day for passion. You might choose to send a card or small gift to friends, family or other valued people in your life. However, it’s important to make sure that your Valentine’s tokens are appropriate and not likely to be misinterpreted.


If you decide to send flowers, then bear in mind that roses are generally reserved for romantic love. If you’re giving flowers to a friend, choose a different type of flower. The ancient art of floriography (the language of flowers) gives plenty of scope for very personal floral gifts. You could choose anemones for good luck, or hyacinth for playfulness, for example. Flowers make a wonderful gift for men as well as women.

It’s always better to choose a few high-quality blooms from a florist rather than a bouquet from a chain store for the same price that will look sparse and probably not last as long.

Cards and Gifts

A card or handwritten note is always appropriate and pleasant. However, an understated card with a meaningful message is a better choice rather than a huge gaudy one. Make sure that the sentiments expressed inside are not too effusive for your relationship with the recipient, whether you are married, dating, or have a friendship or family connection.

Some of the gifts on offer in shops in the run-up to Valentine’s Day are cheap, disposable, in very poor taste and should not be sent under any circumstances. Nobody in your life needs fluffy handcuffs or a gigantic teddy bear.

If you want to give someone a thoughtful gift, stay away from the Valentine’s aisle in the supermarket and instead give them something more imaginative. The 90s trend of making a mixtape is back for 2023 with people making Spotify playlists to show their love or recall happy memories with loved ones. In a similarly sustainable vein, vouchers for experience days, a home-cooked meal or a homemade gift are eco-friendly and very personal gift ideas.

Valentine jewellery

Of course, Valentine’s Day is traditionally a day when many marriage proposals take place. If you are planning to pop the question on this most romantic day of the year, don’t do it anywhere in public. This puts more pressure on the person you are asking, and they might say yes just to save embarrassment for you or themselves.

If you are buying a ring for a proposal or any other kind of jewellery for your Valentine, stay within your budget and go for a classic design or something that is to their taste, rather than the latest trend. And if you’re just buying a gift rather than proposing marriage, do not give a diamond ring – this could lead to a misunderstanding.

Happy Valentine’s Day?

February 14th can be a very hard day for those going through divorce, bereavement or other difficult circumstances. A caring gesture could mean a lot to them, so think about the people in your life who would welcome a flower, a card, or a phone call or visit.

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If you need help to improve your knowledge on any aspect of modern etiquette, contact Polished Manners to discuss in-person and online training options.