No matter what anyone else tells you, you should always bring chocolate and roses*.
Putting aside all of the regular objections to Valentine's Day (forced romance, cliche, misogyny, abuse of the color red), let's focus instead on how you can make February 14th a day to cherish rather than a day to dread (or roll your eyes at). To do this, there's only one thing you really need to remember.
Love is an Experience, Not an Object.
As a Boston wedding photographer, I know a thing or two about the memories that will last a lifetime and romance (you hear that ladies, the line forms to the left). The best memories, the strongest memories, are all about telling the stories of ourselves and our lives. So the perfect Valentine's Day should build upon those stories. Are you spontaneous and sexy? Whimsical and cute? Daring and dangerous?
Your answers should guide you when you make your plans and build on those themes, After all, whimsy doesn't end with a beautiful hotel suite lined with rose petals, and spontaneity doesn't include bullet points and a minute-by-minute timeline.
Dinner: The Platonic Valentine's Day is always a few flowers and a nice dinner over candlelight, but life is full of nice dinners and candles. Instead cook something new together or try a unique dining experience. There are restaurants that let you dine in the dark (supposedly enhancing the other senses) or sample from a wide tasting menu. You could also plan a menu that reflects your relationships or where you both come from (though if you are from Boston, cream pie is a better option than baked beans).
Destination: Often this goes hand-in-hand with dinner, but the setting for your romantic evening doesn't have to stop there. Together you can explore a new place or rediscover an old one to help you escape the ordinary. If you're more of the sort to stay in and watch Netflix, then consider transforming your couch into your destination through decor (a curtain in front of the television, teenagers texting in front of you, sticky floors).
Do Something: Turn your evening into an adventure and go beyond just dinner and drinks. Take a class (painting, dancing, cooking or computer programming). Go to a museum. Put together a scavenger hunt about your relationship (a matchbook from where you had your first date, check in where you had your first kiss, a copy of your special someone's favorite book). More in line with what we do at Ryan Richardson Photography, consider a couple's photo shoot - they're not just for engagements. It's a great way to start out a great night, getting dressed out and travelling to a beautiful place and capturing a special moment in your lives.
Speaking of photography, you might also offer your partner a unique experience. A day of pampering and beauty followed by a boudoir session (a gift for you as well) that leaves her looking amazing and feeling confident before you amazing night out on the town.
Ryan Richardson is a wedding photographer based in New England, and has a vested interest in ensuring that couples don't break up because of bungled romantic holidays.
*Unless someone is horribly allergic or doesn't like them, then you're on your own in this cold and unrelenting New England winter.