3 Valentine's Day Surprises to Avoid

Not all Valentine's Day surprises have the same romantic effect as Cupid's arrow. Modern Manners Guy explains which kinds of surprise gifts to avoid, and why.

Richie Frieman
6-minute read
Episode #329

By the time this episode hits the mannerly airwaves, there will only be a few days left to grab a gift that will earn you an Instagram and Facebook post tagged #bestgiftever. And while some of you might already have that super gift in hand, others may have just gasped, “Wait, Valentine’s Day is this week?!?!”  .

I once wrote an article about Valentine’s Day etiquette, which outlined some simple do’s and don’ts to pull off a great day for both parties. It's not always so easy: Valentine’s Day is stressful, and there are many ways Cupid’s arrow can fly way off target - especially if any surprise gifts are of the wrong kind.

So let’s give Cupid a kick in the ol’ diaper (or whatever it is he wears) with my top three quick and dirty tips for which Valentine’s Day surprises to avoid:

Tip #1: The Surprise Vacation

Be it simple or over the top, I absolutely love when I give a gift (Valentine’s Day or other) that totally floors someone. However, something happens on Valentine’s Day that makes couples across the globe go crazy, because they focus on the bigger-is-better mentality over the “What really makes sense?” approach.  

It’s as if each year, the gift has to be more elaborate than the previous year’s model. Oh, St. Valentine, how you play with our minds! So we rack our brains to the point of insanity, only to have it go so very wrong.

For example, one Modern Manners Guy Twitter follower told me, “I planned a surprise weekend away for my wife, and it went terrible!” Turns out, Bob forgot that some people like to actually be prepared for an out of town trip.

Even though Bob’s heart was in the right place as he arrived at his wife’s work with a limo to the airport and tickets to Florida, he left out some key elements of what makes an ideal weekend for his wife. Despite organizing the transportation and hotel, he failed to bring his wife’s medication, hairdryer, the expensive straightener she uses every day, makeup she insists on wearing - and, oh yeah, the right clothes for that weekend. Surprise...your Valentine’s Day now stinks!

Here’s the deal: those magical, out-of-nowhere weekend trips only work in the movies. In reality, people like to plan and pack, to make sure they can enjoy the destination appropriately.

A much better- and easier - way to enjoy that romantic element of surprise would have been to take her to a nice dinner in the limo, then present her with info on the weekend trip - which would be scheduled to take place in a couple of weeks, not a couple of hours. Trust me, she’ll be thrilled you thought outside of the box, but much happier with some time to plan.

Tip #2: The Surprise Guest

In a past episode called Bad Valentine’s Day Gifts, I spoke about some rather poor choices in gift giving, like going broke for the best gift, or giving a pet to a non-pet-lover. And although I’m not one to judge (well okay, maybe a little...okay, a lot...), there are bad gifts, and then there gifts that fail worse than Calvin Klein thinking Justin Bieber would make a good cover model.

His idea was to turn the most romantic day of the year into a family event that symbolized “togetherness." Well, guess who did not sleep together that night?

One example is the Valentine’s Day surprise that Zack gave his wife. As in Tip #1, Zack’s heart was in the right place, but his brain must have left town.

His “grand idea” of a perfect V-Day night was to surprise his wife with dinner with her parents and her brother - who she can’t stand. His idea was to turn the most romantic day of the year into a family event that symbolized “togetherness” (his word.) Well, guess who did not sleep together that night?