Common mistakes men make on Valentine's Day

Birthdays are bad and Christmas is a challenge. But there’s no other holiday that strikes more fear into the hearts of men than Valentine’s Day.

Matte Babel speaks to etiquette advisor Karen Cleveland about the most common mistakes men make on Valentine’s Day and what to do to avoid them. They wander through MoRoCo, a luxury chocolate shop in Toronto, as Cleveland dishes the goods.

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Mistake #1: You don’t plan ahead
Retailers start hauling out the pink and red decoration and Valentine’s Day goodies in early January so there’s no excuse for letting the holiday creep up on you. Karen points out that waiting until the last-minute to put together romantic or unique plans for your lady never works. “All the good cards are gone, all the good tables at restaurants are booked,” she says. “You’re setting yourself up for failure.”

Mistake #2: You refuse to celebrate
Karen outlines a common holiday cop-out, “Men lament that it’s a commercial ploy and they want nothing to do with it.” But that’s no excuse because whatever your feelings about the holiday, your partner will still have expectations for February 14th. “Women don’t care…You still have to dazzle us.”

Mistake #3: You cheese out

On the other side of the spectrum, there are men who embrace Valentine’s Day in the worst way. Most holidays have potential for hokiness so stay away from clichéd gifts. Karen explains that over-sized stuffed animals or heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are too cheesy. “It feels a little contrived. There’s really nothing authentic about it.” Ideally, you should be looking for gifts that show your feelings for her and not the same old stand-bys.

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What you should get her

So what makes for an acceptable token of affection? Karen says a great gift is “something deeply personal that shows how well you know her and how much you adore her.” That might mean getting her concert tickets to her favourite band, or a rare edition of her favourite book.

For adventure-loving ladies, Karen suggests surprising a long-term partner with plane tickets for a weekend away. If it’s still early days, loading her e-reader with travel guides might feel less premature. Or for women who love luxury, an appointment at a spa makes for a thoughtful, indulgent treat.

But for men still flummoxed on how to make the occasion special, Babel asks whether chocolates and flowers can still work as gifts.

Karen recommends stepping up beyond the standard set of drugstore chocolates by seeking out a specialty shop with lots of variety. Dark chocolate ganaches are perfect for traditional women while a bolder gal might prefer a black chai tea truffle.

And no one can go wrong with roses. They’re quite simply, a classic. The best bouquets have a clean style – chic and more minimalist than the plastic-sheathed, babies’ breath-laden clusters easily found in gas stations.

But since some of the best gifts show their specificity, this could mean treating her to nicely wrapped package of licorice if she prefers them to chocolate or showering her with tulips if she prefers them to roses.

It’s all about keeping things personal – to show that you really know her and care.