It seems people are divided as to whether Valentine’s Day is a celebration made up by genius brand marketers (the first heart-shaped chocolate box was created centuries ago by Richard Cadbury) or an actual holiday. Regardless of your take on it, Valentine’s Day is responsible for an uptick in global business every February, all thanks to consumers buying gifts in hordes. According to the National Retail Federation, over $18.2 billion is spent on Valentine’s gifts each year around the globe.
So who should you buy for? And what is an appropriate gift on the second biggest gift-giving day of the year—following Christmas? Here are some Valentine’s Day etiquette guidelines to help determine who to gift, who to skip and what presents could actually get you fired.
V-Day in the Office
This heart-laden holiday is not just to celebrate lovers, but also those you care deeply for, including family and friends. With that in mind, buying gifts for a specific person at work—including a colleague, a boss or a junior team member—is a big no-no. Any way you look at it, celebrating a holiday that expresses love in the workplace may be misconstrued as unprofessional and could land you in the HR office faster than you can say Russel Stover. If you really want to share the love with your team, simply leave some home-baked goods or a bag of candy in the communal kitchen.
Best Gifts to Buy and Why
While a simple card can go a long way (homemade or purchased are equally fine), remember to include a handwritten message, as it gives added impact over a text or email. Think a handwritten note is outdated? Guess again—card companies sell over 6.5 billion cards annually, in the U.S. alone.
Is it okay to not buy an actual tangible gift? Yes, because some of the best gifts are those in which the effort is clear. Experiences can be even more valuable than a bouquet of red roses, especially for the person who has everything. Standing in line to book your loved one’s favorite tasting menu or planning a home cooked meal is sure to be a major hit. If you do decide to buy a gift and ever wondered what was an appropriate amount to spend, consider that the average person invests just over $136 each V-Day on their loved ones. It’s also important to remember to make sure your gift is packaged or wrapped beautifully. Presentation is very important; after all, there is a reason why people swoon over that little turquoise Tiffany & Co. box.
If you’re a V-Day traditionalist, the two most common gifts are, unsurprisingly, flowers and chocolates. But whatever you do, beware of gifting white lilies to your partner, husband or wife—the delicate white flowers are often associated with funerals and grieving. It’s important to investigate the meaning of the color and type of flower before you send them, as they often hold underlying messages: red for passion, coral for desire, yellow for friendship and roses for romance. Ask your florist if you have any qualms over the flowers you’ve chosen. Also, be sure to choose top quality flowers when gifting yourself a floral arrangement, because according to one study, 14 percent of women send themselves flowers on Valentine’s Day.
Once those red roses land on your desk, it’s important not to overshare on social media about romantic gestures or gifts you received. One post at best is sufficient and won’t come across as bragging. And whatever you do, refrain from posting anything racy on social media. No accounts are truly private, and if you don’t want your boss or neighbor to see your new lacy negligee, simply don’t post it!
Myka Meier is the Founder of NY-based Beaumont Etiquette and co-founder of The Plaza Hotel Finishing Program.