4 Modern Valentine’s Day Etiquette Tips to Elevate Your Holiday

The New Rules of Reservations, Cards, Gifts, and Beyond

BY // 02.10.23

In her recurring column, “Social in Security,” modern etiquette ambassador and Bell’INVITO founder Heather Wiese-Alexander walks us through a list of trusted tips you can rely on. Today’s topic: the etiquette of Valentine’s Day 2023. 

What will you do on Tuesday? Ah, Valentine’s Day. Loved by some, hated by some, and ignored by a handful—unless there is dark chocolate. (That last part might be me projecting.) On the heels of kicking off our New Year and looking intently at where we are headed as a culture, we have the framework to take Valentine’s Day etiquette to the next level. Ahead, I’ve outlined four new ways to take on this holiday and of course, the roadmap to making it one for the record books.

Before launching, hey cynics, let’s chat. I’m not ignoring you. Our beloved Hallmark Holiday can be viewed, rightly so, as materialistic and consumer-conning. Here’s the kicker. It’s rooted in something we all need more of—love. Take your stand, buy nothing if it serves you best—or buy lovingly from a local small business if you are able—but let’s not take the one good thing that came out of a brilliant marketing ploy to get us spending. I challenge you to a full day of spreading love. This costs nothing.

Are you ready? Four ideas to take your Valentine’s Day experience to the next level. Lovers, get creative making it spicy. Parents, get intentional teaching love to kids. Co-workers, (appropriately) spread love around the office. Neighbors, be a little more neighborly—all of us have the perfect excuse to do little acts of love.

What’s the goal? Modernize Valentine’s Day etiquette to kick off a Love Day Revolution. Where do you start? With them.


1. Pick Your Valentine

You don’t have to choose just one. The world can be your Valentine. Set your sights on your lover, your kids, and your crabby cubicle neighbor. Whatever you can reasonably handle. These are all great subjects. Then, the point is to think outside of yourself. You know it is better to give than receive, so give. Give considerately. Give a smile, give a note, give a bite-sized-Snickers… just give something that makes today about someone other than you. Aim to make someone feel special. It’s just one day. We’ve got this!


2. Keep the Day’s Focus on THEM

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself—or expectations on others. Planning so hard that you make it about you is a common pitfall. This year for the planning: more them, less you. See if it makes everyone happier. Betting it will. And don’t forget to have fun! Here are some suggestions to get your them-focused mind tuned up:

The best things are free (or almost free):

  • Write a compliment on any piece of paper and put it where they will find it.
  • Put a treat with a simple, ‘I appreciate you’ on your co-worker’s desk.
  • Send your boss an email with one thing you’ve learned from them that makes you truly thankful (don’t gift your boss).
  • Put notes on the seats when you pick the kids up from school telling them one thing you think is really cool about them. Have them read it out loud. Enjoy the big smiles!!
  • Send the link to a song that makes you think of them and tell them why.

Hey there, big spenders:

  • During that swanky dinner, ask questions that make them smile when they answer. Ask about their interests. Don’t look around the room. Focus on them.
  • When you drop that piece of bling, tell them why you chose it and how it makes you think of them.
  • When you send the gift, make the point to tell them something personal about how you relate the gift to them or why you bought it for them specifically.


3. Brush Up Your Practice: The Valentine’s Day Etiquette of Cards & Gifts & Sweets, Oh My!

It never fails. There is always a code to know. If your love this year incorporates giving one of the trifecta of Valentine’s manifestations, arm yourself with a little etiquette knowledge. When you are educated, you are confident. When you’re confident, you can focus more on them.

The practice of sending out Valentine’s cards is making a comeback. Since the trend seems to be in full swing, mailing just a few days before is plenty. This isn’t an invitation. There’s no need to have it in hand until the actual day.

Reserve gifts for closer, longer-term relationships. If this is your second or third date, take the pressure off and don’t expect a gift. Too soon.

Gifting treats? You know the way to my heart. Do you have to mind every allergy, preference, and dietary restriction? Well, it’s situational. I’ll simply remind both of you, dear givers and receivers, to be gracious and thoughtful. Know your audience. Give to make someone feel seen and appreciated. Giving to check a box is about you. Remember, this day is about them.


4. Relish. Recharge. Repeat.

Do you have a date? Congratulations. Have you been doing this a while? Is it brand new? Something in-between? Put love into best practice with these tips:

  • Dining out? Make reservations early. Tip well. Don’t expect a full menu—most have limited selections to handle the demand on Valentine’s Day. Be nice to the wait staff (always). Take opportunities to be considerate of not only your date but the world around you. Make sure your date feels seen, heard, and special. This is your win.
  • Bring your manners. Not that you wouldn’t, however, think of them as a way to show respect instead of a list of dos and don’ts. Open doors, pull out chairs, be chivalrous if your partner appreciates it. Be present, aware, and considerate. If you miss a little etiquette cue, let it go. Focus on the next moment to connect.
  • Bring questions. Long-standing couples, think of hopes, dreams, and things to envision on the horizon. Do your best to leave the present humdrum or irritating issues for another day’s discussions. Aim to freshen up your conversation. New couples, ask to learn. This is the fun stuff. Learn more than you teach.
  • Be punctual. Punctuality shows respect for another’s time.
  • Be considerate of time. This year Valentine’s Day falls on a school/work night. If you’re celebrating on the day and you haven’t planned to have the morning to recuperate, mind the people around you for cues as to when it’s time to wrap it up.

Single and ready to mingle? Just want to stay home? Do it! There’s no rule to follow. I encourage you to know what makes you happy and do what makes you happy, dammit. Hopefully, you have found at least one person or group to toss a little love ball during the day, or in the days to come. If this night calls for Netflix and a rendezvous with the notorious Ben and Jerry, then recharge your batteries and enjoy. Aim to spread more love tomorrow. Lord knows we need to keep this love fest going.


Crystal Charity Ball’s Peace, Love and London evening (Photo by Jonathan Zizzo)
Crystal Charity Ball’s Peace, Love, and London evening (Photo by Jonathan Zizzo)

The point, my friends, if you haven’t surmised by now, the world needs love, and we have the perfect excuse. While the chocolates, flowers, and explosions of pink and red are very fun, the real exercise of chic is knowing how to see above all the hype and get to the meat of what makes this weekday, no-one-gets-off-work holiday worthy of our attention. Show up and love. What you put out there boomerangs back. I don’t make the rules.

And as always, I love hearing from you. Thank you for all the tremendous support you send my way. Keep telling me what you need to read. I hope you find yourself inspired to take in someone else and make them feel loved this fabulous February.


Heather Wiese | @heather_g_wiese

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