Valentine's Day: bring the romance minus the schmaltz

As far as declaring enduring love goes, Valentine's Day is probably the hokiest and most commercial outpouring for something that really should be a personal affair and far from a once-in-a-blue-moon scenario.

Rather than funnelling massive profits to tacky greeting card companies, why not stand out from the crowd of blokes desperately making last-minute restaurant reservations for anyone who'll take them (hint, practically no-one) or snatching wilting bouquets at the servo/supermarket?

We've put in the attentive thought so you can score the brownie points as a truly loving partner with smarts and heart.

1. Flowers by another name

It's probably the biggest day of the year for florists, and we're not one to knock small businesses, but if you're going down that route, why not try putting in a little more effort. Ask a local florist to create something spectacular using only native flora. Even better, head to a nursery and pick up something you can plant in the backyard, on your balcony or kitchen windowsill that you can also eat, so it gives back all-year-round.

2. Food of love

As for those pricey dinners you can't score by now anyway, why not ditch the night out in favour of breakfast in bed instead? Valentine's is on a Sunday this year, so you don't even have to get up super-early. Just whip up a pot of aromatic coffee (not instant), freshly squeezed OJ, some toast and an omelette. With a minor investment in one of those trays with beanbags on the bottom, you can spend a lazy morning together over the papers without spillages.

3. The write stuff

We all know that Valentine's cards are more often than not filled with glib, rhyming schmaltz. If you're not a dab hand at craft, instead of fiddling about trying to make your own, why not go down the old fashioned route and write a plain and simple letter to your loved one telling them how much they mean to you? Pen and paper missives are a dying art, but they speak volumes about true, thoughtful love.

4. Sweets for your sweet

Chocolates are another no-brainer when it comes to Valentine's gifts, but a generic box snatched out of the milk bar on the corner isn't gonna cut it. If you want to (cocoa) butter your partner up, try accompanying them to an artisanal chocolatier like Boon in Sydney, Melbourne's Monsieur Truffe or the Haigh's factory in Adelaide for a taste test and a chat with the makers before heading home laden with goodies. Or just bake your partner a chocolate cake.

5. A bubble path

Champagne bubbles always brings a smile, but instead of going French this Valentine's, and if chocolate is just a little too calorific, why not head to Australia's finest wine regions for a day trip packed full of sparkle? Domaine Chandon in Victoria's Yarra Valley do a great drop, as do House of Arras in Tassie and Adelaide Hills' Bird in Hand – we rate their sparkling pinot noir - so why not pop along for a boozy lunch? You're on driving duties, naturally, or book a tour so you can both indulge.

6. Movies and more

A movie date sounds like a romantic night out, but really, sitting in a dark room with hundreds of strangers chomping popcorn isn't all that hot and frankly, we're not surprised couples end up seeing two different flicks because they can't compromise. Valentine's is time to compromise – treat your partner to their favourite movie (even if it's Dirty Dancing) projected big screen size at home with dinner and drinks.


7. The hard yards

Sign a contract that says you're on house-cleaning duties for the rest of the week, including taking the bin bags and recycling out, because what could be sweeter than doing all the un-fun, definitely un-glamorous stuff for your partner without resorting to continually whingeing about it?

8. Sheet treat

Splash out on new bed sheets with a pleasingly high thread count – nothing says I love you like a sleek and silky feel on skin and bonus points for making the bed properly too.

9. Go all-out

If you do want to make a mammoth, bank-busting gesture then don't make it all about you. Stop for a moment and think about a knockout experience that would fulfil one of their biggest dreams, not your bucket list. If you're stuck, best to get their besties involved in planning this one.

10. Take a raincheck

Ignore the date altogether. And no, that doesn't mean you have a pass card from ever showing your partner how much you care. Exactly the opposite; it means you should always be conscious of making small, romantic, thoughtful gestures. Here's the thing, when they come out of the blue at any given moment, they have a much bigger impact than when limited to one tokenistic day.