19 Valentine’s Day Ideas Long-Time Couples Swear By
Same old, same old? Not this year! Here's how to spice things up this Valentine's Day, according to long-term couples who make romance a priority.
Keeping the romance alive
It’s a special adventure when you find someone you want to share your life with. From the big milestones, like marriage and children, to the little everyday rituals that make you love each other more with each passing day, it all builds a happy relationship. Most couples who have been together for a number of years develop traditions around holidays, including the one dedicated to all things love: Valentine’s Day. Some choose to stay home, snuggled and cozy with Netflix, while others use it as an excuse to paint the town red or book a table at one of the most romantic Valentine’s Day restaurants in the country. Whatever the case, there’s no right way to celebrate your affection; it’s whatever is right for you. But if you and your number one are looking for new ideas to explore, consider these tips from duos who have their own special traditions for February 14th.
Create a relaxing staycation
For some wild reason, Brad and Soraya Kilgore decided to get married at the young age of 21, and now they’ve been happily hitched for 12 years. As chefs, they spend a lot of time in restaurants together, so that’s the last place they want to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Instead, they use the holiday as an excuse to fully disconnect and hole up together in a hotel, far away from their jobs. “Since we are both in the restaurant industry, getting time alone is few and far between, so we make it a priority to do a staycation and just relax,” Brad shares. “I like to shut my phone off, but I end up coming back to hundreds of emails! The time quiet time with Soraya is totally worth it, though.”
Write each other an annual letter
In the past 10 years of being married, Sarah and Zack Klutz have developed many traditions to celebrate Valentine’s Day. From staying home and cooking a steak dinner to visiting a local hot springs for some R&R, they’ve had plenty of time to perfect what they prefer. Sarah’s favorite, though, is writing an annual letter to each other as a way to express gratitude for their relationship. Now that they have two kids, the letters may not be as long as they once were, but they’re still equally meaningful. And that’s not the only way they maintain their marriage. They don’t just prioritize date night once a year in February, says Sarah—they make sure to go out at least once a month to keep the spark strong. They’ve got the right idea: Regular date nights are statistically proven to keep a relationship healthy.
Include your kiddos in the celebration
If you live in Portland, Oregon, you’ve probably heard of Nick Steele and Kristen Flowers since they host a radio show together. They’ve been married for 10 years, and these days, they look at Valentine’s Day not just as a celebration for a party of two but as a moment of love for the whole family. Usually, they make a special meal or a fun dessert. “We always get a special Valentine’s Day card for our daughter to show her that she is loved,” Kristen says. “It’s a day for love, and for us, that includes children.”
Nick also goes the extra mile to make his wife feel adored, like last year, when he asked her to run out and grab coffee for them. While she was gone, he decorated the whole space with V-Day decor. “It made me feel special and surrounded me with love the whole day,” Kristen says. If you’re thinking of giving flowers, first make sure you know the real meanings behind different rose colors.
Work up a sweat together
Truth be told, author and certified health coach Christine Egan and her husband, Frank, aren’t the biggest fans of Valentine’s Day. As Christine puts it, it can be too disappointing and present unrealistic expectations that no one can meet. They’ve been in a happy relationship for 24 years, and they use the holiday as a chance to work up a sweat together. And no, not like that—in the gym! “My husband and I shared a fitness goal of participating in a 36-hour endurance event. We trained for over six months together. We would climb stairs, run at night, exercise for over eight hours in a day,” Christine explains. “All those activities put us out of our comfort zone, but it created a deeper connection in our relationship with each other.” Plus, this won’t put a massive dent in your bank account. Here are some more ideas for the best Valentine’s Day on a budget.
Choose a different day to celebrate if your schedules are crazy
Like any other holiday, February 14th falls on a different day of the week each year. Especially if both of you have super busy schedules, finding time for a three-course-meal on a random weekday can be tricky. That’s why Leah and Joseph Lupo create their own day to celebrate, either the weekend before or after—or, really, any other time that makes sense for their life. They call it the Tuesday Card. “The sentiment is that while every day won’t be bliss, there are many days that you feel ‘extra love.’ Show your appreciation in a special way [then]: Surprise your partner with a card, flowers, their favorite meal, or get a babysitter and take them out, just the two of you,” Leah explains. Don’t miss these 19 funny Valentine’s Day cards we’re buying this year.
Go shopping together
Rather than stressing out about choosing the perfect gift (and then picking something random), Nicole and David Pomije, the owners of The Cookie Cups in Minnesota, go shopping as a couple. They’ve been together for eight years and have one child, and they see the excursion to the mall as a fun experience, with less pressure. “Instead of coming home with gifts to unwrap, we go out and splurge together,” Nicole shares. “One year, we both got fancy sunglasses for an upcoming trip. Another, we did fancy fragrances. We have crazy schedules, so spending time together outside of the house is the best-case scenario for us and we enjoy it.” Looking to get away from it all with your significant other? Check out these 15 romantic getaways to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Create a vision for your future together
Business and mentoring coach Stephanie Smolders and her partner of four years, Peter Beukering, see Valentine’s Day as a way to reflect on their past and dream about what is sure to come. “We look at the memories we made and talk about our future together. We write down a list of goals or intentions for the rest of the year,” Stephanie explains. “It is like creating a mini bucket list, and it gets us excited about the next steps in our lives. Peter is really good at drawing and I’m good at writing, so we create a moodboard of our vision and hang it in our bedroom to feel those cozy feelings again.” Here are 11 communication rules every couple should follow in their relationship.
Check a place off your bucket list
Travel and food blogger JB Macatulad and his partner of 16 years, Renée Cantos-Macatulad, are always jet-setting. He estimates that they travel at least five to 10 times a year, and nearly every V-Day, they find themselves in a foreign country. He says it makes it extra special because they are both celebrating something new. “A couple of years ago, we spent Valentine’s Day in Kurokawa Onsen, a charming onsen town nestled in the mountains of Kumamoto, Japan,” he shares. (An onsen, by the way, is a Japanese hot spring.) “We both had our first onsen experience on that trip and fell in love with the experience. In fact, we’ll be doing it again this year.” Need some travel inspiration? Pick from these 18 one-of-a-kind, bucket-list adventures.
Alternate who plans Valentine’s Day
Planning a holiday celebration that comes with a mountain-high list of expectations (most of them unrealistic) can put a lot of pressure on one half of the couple. That’s why Lia and Jeremy Garcia decided to alternate the work every year. Though they’ve been together for six years, they’re still going strong with surprises and fun adventures. “At the beginning of our relationship, this inspired a lot of creativity, because we are each incredibly competitive,” says Lia. “For several years, our goal was to one-up the previous year’s plans. And like, not to brag, but Jeremy has yet to top my ridiculously amazing multi-city scavenger hunt.”
Embark on a unique experience together
You might not need us to remind you, but we will, just in case: Experiences are often a lot more meaningful than things. That’s the philosophy that travel host and video producer Sarah Funk subscribes to with her partner of nine years, Luis Yanes. “My husband and I have the same type of love language, which is spending time together. It is important to understand what your partner’s love language is in order to give a great gift,” she explains. “This Valentine’s Day, we will be doing a desert safari in Morocco. Doing unique experiences together leaves us with great memories we will take with us for life.” Here are another 15 great ideas for experience gifts.
Have a day full of your favorite things
Long-term married couple Shel Horowitz and his wife D. Dina Friedman have been an unstoppable twosome since 1984, celebrating more than 33 years together. As a way to keep that lusted-after spark alive, Horowitz says it’s important to let Valentine’s Day be a day when you begin and end your day with kindness, affection, and love toward one another. Their favorite Valentine’s Day begins with breakfast in bed, followed by an adventure that takes them outside—even if it’s freezing outside in mid-February. “The cold air is actually energizing once you get going, as long as you’re dressed for it,” he adds. To top off the day, Horowitz suggests dark chocolate, a dinner reservation at your favorite restaurant, and, if you can swing it, live music to encourage those romantic vibes. Here’s the best marriage advice from happy couples.
Whatever you do, just make sure you spend time together
For Renee and Michael Jones, who have been hitched since 1995, it’s less about the what they do on Valentine’s Day, and more about pausing their busy, overworked lives and focusing on one another. As Renee shares, the romantic way to spend this holiday is to focus on one another, meeting the needs of their heart, body, and mind. That’s why after too much stress of booking restaurant reservations, they’ve switched up their tradition. “What we do depends on the weather, but we live in Texas, so there is a better than average chance that we can do something outdoors. The main priority is to spend time together, making meal preparation as easy as possible, and enjoy the company of this man I adore and married almost 23 years ago,” Renee shares. “One year, he took me to a proper British tea at a local hotel, and then we had a lovely wander around the very safe and intriguing city square. We may sit on the patio of a gourmet grocery store after choosing our food from their deli and wine from the store. It’s not about what we do, you see. It’s about connecting our hearts—regularly and not simply on Valentine’s Day or anniversaries.”
Surprise them with a thoughtful, meaningful gift
For Kim and Mark Melton—who will ring in 25 years of marriage in July, the secret to a memorable Valentine’s Day is tied to a unique, meaningful gift. Since they have five children, going the extra mile to surprise one another with a thoughtful token of appreciation speaks volumes about their commitment to one another. “When you have been married a long time, holidays like Valentine’s Day help to keep the romance alive by reminding you to do something special for your spouse. It doesn’t have to be big and expensive, just a small surprise that your spouse wasn’t expecting to make them feel special,” she shares. “My husband has written me a letter telling me the things he appreciates about me, and I do the same for him. And because we are busy with children, we make a point to set time aside to go to a favorite restaurant, no phones allowed, and have a nice dinner together.” We love these winter date night ideas that will keep you warm and toasty.
Steal quiet time away
Dr. Elizabeth Trattner and her husband of 30 years, Steve, lead hectic, busy schedules, that sometimes make it difficult to steal away romantic time together. Even so, Dr. Trattner says her partner goes above and beyond to make her feel special, even making sure she has fresh flowers each week, without fail. When February 14 comes around, this successful, dynamic twosome lean toward a quieter celebration instead of one that requires fanfare and hoopla. “We always go to a place outdoors that is quiet and serene like the beach or a Japanese garden. By being in nature, we actually calm our bodies down and help increase focus, and we don’t have distractions like phones, computers, or throngs of people,” Dr. Trattner explains. “The gift of time and focus is the greatest gift to me and to my husband so when we both have time off, we reconnect for the day in nature where we feel revitalized and can enjoy each other’s company where we solely focus on each other.” Love nature? You’ll love these ideas for outdoor dates.
Make Valentine’s Day an everyday thing
Instead of going all out and over-the-top romantic for Valentine’s Day, the best advice of married couple Mary and Mark Black is to treat one another with kindness and respect, 365 days of the year. In May, they’ll celebrate 29 years together and have learned what makes a marriage work through decades of natural ebbs and flows. “We kiss each other goodnight every night, hug when one of us gets home from work and go on date nights, usually dinner and a movie, holding hands and just spending time together,” she shares. “Being married has taught us that what really matters are the little things. It may seem boring to others, but both of our love languages are spending time together, so no matter how we do it, it’s romantic for both of us.”
Go on a scavenger hunt
Wives Andrea Burnett and Barbara Cavoto have been together for 24 years and their go-to Valentine’s Day tradition is via an in-house scavenger hunt. Perhaps cheesy, Burnett says the beauty of her building her life with Cavoto, which includes twin daughters, is that she’s laughing every single day, no matter what. To keep that spark and fun alive, they’ll begin Valentine’s Day with sweet cards and notes left in unusual, unpredictable places around their home. “These little notes of appreciation or special memories we have shared over the years are always a delight to find tucked away in a boot, a drawer, in the refrigerator by the butter dish or any unexpected spot as we go about the day,” she shares. To top off the day, they opt to stay home instead of going out. “Since we are both big foodies, we always plan a special meal, shop for the ingredients and cook it together. We aren’t big on buying each other gifts or roses or dinners out on V-day, but we always take a long hike as a family. Being together and celebrating in our own way is so special,” Burnett adds.
Recreate the beginning
As every couple knows, it takes work and dedication to maintain those loving feelings, especially as decades of trials and errors present roadblocks and hurdles to overcome. But for Linda and George Meyers, who have been together for 32 years and run a cooking school together, the key to remembering all of those reasons you selected one another as lifelong partners is to recreate some of the magic from your honeymoon days. Since they had their first kiss together at 16 and 17 years old in George’s car in her parent’s driveway, they try to have that same stolen moment on Valentine’s Day to encourage the flood of butterflies. And added touch? Homemade cards that take them down memory lane. “I can’t wait to see the card: It rekindles our love every year. I know he has put a great deal of thought into it and it cost nothing,” Linda shares. “My favorite was the 3D french fries with real salt glued on top. The saying was simple but perfect: ‘You are the salt on my fries for life!’ We both love french fries and made them often when we were in college because they were cheap. I would always complain that he put too much salt, but he loved the salty taste and would not eat them without it. That year we ate fries with extra salt and drank a Big Gulp for dinner. What a great memory and so romantic because we spent the night reminiscing about the old days and eating fries.”
Prioritize one another
As much as you adore those rugrats you’re raising, without your partner, your family wouldn’t have been possible. That’s why Trent and Melanie Heppler try to use Valentine’s Day as a time to truly prioritize one another, away from their kiddos. They’ve discovered over 23 years of marriage how important it is to steal alone time—and what a difference it makes in their happiness levels on a personal and couple basis. “So much of our lives as parents are focused on the kids, and not each other. Our family is so much happier when my wife and I focus regularly on each other. Kids need loving, open, honest parents,” Trent shares. “Our best Valentine’s Days have been being together, walking hand in hand down a mountain path, talking to each other, being completely transparent, and not keeping secrets. I love to cook for my wife a special meal and share it together. Now that the kids are on their own, this has made the transition to empty nester easier. Before bed, we love to get in our hot tub with all the lights around us off so we can gaze at the sky, searching for the next shooting star.” Here are perfect date night ideas for parents of young children.
Make it a group celebration
Though some couples like to have Valentine’s Day as an affair for two, for Jean and Martin Shafiroff, who said “I do” at the UN Chapel in New York City in 1982, a common ground for their different religions, the more, the merrier. They extend the invite to not only their family members and friends but their four-legged companions too, who Jean says no true celebration would be complete without them. “If you love to have people around then invite friends and try to surprise your mate. Invite both couples and non-couples. So many people do not have a significant other—so include them—and surprise them with little thoughtful gifts of friendship! Valentine’s Day is not about big expensive gifts,” she shared. “It is about showing that you love and care for your partner, family, friends and those who are alone.” Find out more date night ideas that are more creative than a Netflix binge sesh.