Stuff Valentine’s Day Flowers (and What to Give Instead)

Stuff Valentine’s Day Flowers (and What to Give Instead)
Photo: madorf, Shutterstock

Your opinions on Valentine’s Day don’t matter. “But the holiday is made up!” you cry. “All holidays are made up,” I calmly reply. “We live in a society.”

Like it or not, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. No matter how badly you want to stick it to the Hallmark industrial complex, and no matter how much your loved one assures you they “really don’t want gifts,” the fact of the matter is that we’ve all been conditioned to feel the need to meet a bare minimum for romantic gift-giving every Feb. 14. And no, you’re not going to successfully overcome a lifetime of Valentine’s propaganda by deciding to stiff your partner on the gift front. Hallmark will never know about your act of resistance — but your loved one sure will.

So, should you get roses? What do the different colours represent again? Are lilies equally romantic, or will they be a faux-pas? I have the answer to all your bouquet-related woes: Valentine’s Day flowers are overrated. Seriously. Even if you do opt for a dozen red roses, you still need another gift on top of them — ideally, something way more thoughtful and way less cliché.

To make your life harder, every gift list on the internet seems to think that all women are dangerously addicted to rosé, and that all men quite literally live in the woods. That’s why I’ve broken down the most important elements of romantic gift-giving — so you can successfully figure out the perfect gesture within the next several days. Here’s why you should scrap Valentine’s Day flowers in favour of these ideas that are more creative, cost-effective, and meaningful.

Flowers are a shitty metaphor for love

Vases may as well be flower coffins. You might shell out around $50 on a decent bouquet, only for those flowers to wither away before your eyes over the coming weeks. Do you really want to gift someone something that says, “Hey, these flowers are fleeting — just like our love?” Just saying.

More importantly, the flower industry has a serious impact on the environment and workers. According to estimates by the International Council on Clean Transportation, Valentine’s Day flowers grown in Colombia and flown to U.S. airports produced some 360,000 metric tons of CO2 in 2018. That’s roughly equivalent to 78,000 cars driven for one year. That’s not to mention all the plastic waste created by individually wrapped bouquets.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that you’re doing something wrong by getting someone flowers. A lot of people will treasure the gesture! But if you’re not certain how your valentine feels about bouquets, here are some guidelines to show them you care with more personalised gift ideas.

Capture a memory

Show your love with a drive down memory lane. Framing can be expensive, but unlike flowers, it symbolises permanence. When we’re used to having all our photos inside our phones, taking the time to print out and frame one is a thoughtful way to show how much your memories mean to you.

Other ideas in this memories category: A personalised journal, a scrapbook of love letters, and even an iMovie montage set to your favourite songs.

Find a way to say “treat yourself

Self-care is always appreciated, especially if you’re able to splurge on something your valentine would never get for themselves. The secret here is to combine individual items for a curated “treat yourself” package. A candle on its own is fine. A candle with a bath bomb, slippers, and whiskey cubes? Now you’ve created a DIY day of decadence.

Here’s the most heteronormative thing I’ll write today: Fellas, don’t get your girl lotion. She knows what kind of lotion she likes, and she has enough already.

Promise an experience

If you’re investing in a shared experience later on, try to find a physical representation of it to wrap right now. Some ideas are a new game for game night, a couple’s bucket list, or printed out surprise concert tickets.

Show that you’ve been listening

Remember that your Valentine’s gift doesn’t need to be romance-themed. Personalisation is the most important thing here. Do they have a favourite hot sauce that you can only get at a local restaurant? Do they need new merch for their favourite sports team? Have they needed new earphones for months now? This assumes that you have, indeed, been paying attention to your special someone for some time now. Otherwise, wring every word they say from now until Feb. 14 for gift ideas.

Cook a fancy meal (alone or together!)

My tip here is to turn the home cooking into a date night. You could make a show of gifting all the individual ingredients, or you could print out a personal menu to elevate the at-home fine dining experience. Even if you’re not a master chef, cooking a meal together hits basically every love language:

  1. Quality time. Put on some music while you cook together.
  2. Acts of service. You’re literally nourishing them.
  3. Receiving gifts. A plate of spaghetti is always a gift.
  4. Physical touch: Brush hands while stirring marinara sauce.
  5. Words of affirmation: “You’re such a good cook!” “No, you!” “Let’s stay together forever.” See?

Personalise Valentine’s classics

Instead of flowers, what about succulents? Or any other plant that can become a more permanent, less cliché fixture in their home? (Maybe not any other plant. Although I think a ficus can be mighty romantic.)

Instead of confining yourself to overpriced Valentine’s chocolates, why not get treats that are actually your valentine’s favourites? Maybe that means one of those giant tins of flavored popcorn, or personally arranging a bouquet of beef jerky. Then again, if you really aren’t sure what to get, most people will be happy to see that heart-shaped box.

At the end of the day, it really is the thought the counts. If your thoughts are about how much you care about this person, then that sentiment should shine through whatever gift you land on. And if that gift happens to be flowers, I won’t stop you. Happy Valentine’s Day, from one cynical bastard to another.

Log in to comment on this story!