That's where we come in.
To find answers to these questions and more, we went to etiquette expert Lizzie Post, great-great granddaughter of Emily Post and graduate of the Emily Post Institute. Lizzie is also a consultant to the American Express Platinum Card Concierge Service, so not only does she know what's proper, but she has her finger on the pulse of the hottest Valentine's Day spending trends. We asked her some of our -- er, your -- toughest Valentine's Day gifting questions.
Holidash: How long should a couple be dating before they automatically plan on being one another's Valentine's dates?
Lizzie Post: Asking is always considerate, no matter how long you've been dating. Asking something like, "Babe, is there anything special you'd like to do for Valentine's this year?" a month or so in advance is a great way to get the conversation started. A week or two before the holiday you can always say something like, "I'd love to take you out on Valentine's Day, would you like to go to dinner and show?" With an "ask" like that, it won't matter how long you've been dating; it's casual enough to not feel like love will be forced and nice enough to sound enticing.
HD: How early in a relationship is too soon to exchange Valentine's Day gifts?
LP: You can't put a time stamp on love and relationships. For some couples, they're head over heels from the moment they lock eyes, for others even six months feels short and new. Do what feels right to you in regards to the time you have shared with your new sweetheart. A diamond necklace after one month may be a bit too much, but dinner and a movie snuggled up on the couch might be just the thing!
HD: What guidelines should new couples follow with Valentine's Day gifts, regarding both price and, uh, sexiness of the gift?
LP: If a new couple chooses to exchange gifts versus sharing an experience, there are plenty of gifts that are thoughtful and sweet and not too sour on your wallet. Never underestimate the power of a handmade gift or card, or the classics: a box of chocolates -- my personal favorite! -- or flowers. You could also make a traditional gift more original like taking a chocolate-making class or putting together a garden kit to grow your own flowers. When it comes to sexy, let your lovely lady do her own shopping and surprise you! Or, save it for when the relationship is more solid.
HD: Regarding established couples, what are some of the bigger Valentine's etiquette blunders that tend to occur? Are there any gifts that are just always, always a big fat NO?
LP: The big fat NO would be if you skipped Valentine's Day altogether! Established couples can think about the bigger picture: You've been together a while, worked and raised kids, it's time for a break! Think about that trip to Italy or the Caribbean that you've wanted to do but always put off -- and this time go without the kids! There is always a travel deal to be had that makes planning hassle free and easy on the wallet.
HD: If your budget is really tight, how cheap is too cheap?
LP: Valentine's Day is not a time to focus on how much you spend but on how much thought you put into celebrating. You can create a very special evening for a loved one without having to spend a lot of money. Cooking your sweetie's favorite meal and setting the scene: Low lighting, a beautiful table spread and your best outfit. (Don't forget you, yourself can be a gift too! Ooh la-la!) Or instead of buying flowers, take your honey for a walk at your local botanical garden or a drive to the country for a picnic or to share a thermos of hot cocoa. Putting together a killer play list and adorning the CD you burn it to in a Valentine's Day theme is always a winner. If you look around and think about what your sweetheart enjoys you'll come up with something that fits both their taste and your budget.
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