Here is a curation of sensory pleasures that make sophisticated and luxurious gifts for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, proposal, birthday or if you simply want to say “you are my one and only!”
A themed perfume sample set
Instead of the routine bottle of perfume, try giving the gift of exploration with a themed perfume sample set. It’s sensual, novel, and intriguing.
If your lady loves floral and fruity scents then she will enjoy Guerlain’s Mitsouko EDP, YSL’s Rive Gauche, and the other 7 perfumes of the feminine set, which is based on the best feminine fragrances list in Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s seminal “Perfumes: The Guide.”
The naughty set explores three scents with base notes that gives “otherwise beautiful perfume[s] a bit of flirt. […] They may smell a little bit of skin or have a slightly musky smell that shows up after you put on the perfume and your body’s natural warmth heats it up,” The Perfumed Court explains. I say, gift that one at your own risk!
And if the lady of your dreams holds a fascination with old Hollywood glamour then you can let her explore the alluring signature scents of silver screen icons and vixens such as Ava Gardner, Bette Davis, Mae West, or Grace Kelly. You can even choose the celebrities to fully customize the set to her tastes.
All three sets are from The Perfumed Court. Be sure to order the glass atomizers or sprays, though, as the vials can be hard to open without spilling. And see the detailed blog posts on the feminine, naughty, and vintage sets as well as more fragrance set gift ideas.
Flowers that actually smell
Have you noticed how most cultivated and commercially sold flowers today do not smell anymore? This is especially true of roses. I have a blog post dedicated here specifically about this issue. ”When a fragrant flower like a rose loses its scent, it has lost the thing that makes it a rose,” says Amy Stewart of “Flower Confidential.” So, instead of a bouquet of cultivated roses, choose something that still has the alluring scent of a flower.
You can talk to your florist about sourcing fragrant garden roses for a bouquet of warm honey and apricot notes, chose a potted jasmine from Whole Foods for their sweet intoxicating scent, or gift a beautiful box of gardenias for their sensuously rich, sweet and earthy fragrance. The High Camp Supply box of vine and gardenia bloom is also the perfect gift for long distance lovers. Or you could send your loved one a frangipani or Micronesian ginger lei instead. These are exotic, wearable pieces of art that remind of wonderfully romantic hours spent in paradise. Here is my guide to elegant, exotic leis and their scent.
Sophisticated breakfast or brunch
Little comes close to the intimate nature of breakfast in bed. It can be wonderfully lazy and indulgent especially if done with a bit of thought and when a menu of new and exciting tastes is served. Don’t fear if you are not a stellar chef!
You can cook a three-star egg that will wow your lady. The Arpège Farm Egg from the Manresa cookbook tastes wonderfully rich, clean, and smooth in texture, and it is attainable by an amateur cook.
Or to make it even simpler you can serve a Langres. It’s an exquisite, luxurious cheese from Champagne designed with a concave top that is to be filled with terroir-appropriate Champagne. You “cut a small slit into the middle [of the cheese, pour the Champagne, and] allow the bubbles to transform its demure fudginess into a brioche-laden creambomb.” So, all you have to do is gather a knife, cheese board, Langres, Champagne, baguette, and fresh figs. Then some cutting and the result is an unforgettable indulgence.
A special box of chocolates
Lastly, chocolates are always right; however, for a truly luxurious treat that your beloved has not received before it is best to stay away from drugstore or grocery chocolate boxes especially marketed towards (last-minute) Valentine’s shoppers. If you want an exciting experience, you can search for a local artisan chocolatier or stick to known excellent choices such as Recchuiti, La Maison du Chocolat, or Michel Cluizel. If you don’t have to eat it within two weeks of delivery, it is not truly worth this occasion.
The best piece of lingerie
Valentine’s shopping in the wild: Into the Agent Provocateur in front of me walks a gentleman with a bra in hand. He goes up to the sales desk and asks for “something just like” what he had brought in. He wants it as a Valentine’s present for his lady. Honestly, I thought, “What’s the point? Shouldn’t his present be something new and exciting? Something she didn’t own already?”
Yes, picking lingerie for others is hard, but I have some foolproof advice: buy a slip and buy the best, most luxurious one you can afford. You will not regret it! No matter the age, lifestyle, preferences, etc. there is a place for a fine slip in any lady’s life and drawers.
It’s very approachable – no difficult contraptions, laces, or hooks to master and if she is more casual, she won’t feel that it is too fussy or looks like she is trying too hard. If she already loves lingerie, it will be a glamorous and appropriate choice. She can wear it to bed, around the house, or perhaps even out as a dress. The best part, all you have to find out is her dress sizing and if she likes silk. If she does like silk, buy silk. It feels just wonderful against the skin which is the whole purpose. On more than one occasion when I have dressed a client in silk from head to toe, I have heard whispered how glorious it feels, almost like being naked. It’s that great! Otherwise, you could go for a good synthetic blend. Here, here, and here are a few slips that are just stunning and sure to make her gasp!
An extraordinary, special pair of heels is a gift that will remind your lover every step of the day of you. It’s hard to tune out what is on our feet especially if you choose a pair that feels good and one that is sure to get her many compliments throughout the day.
Lips, kisses, and color. For such a small present, it’s extremely powerful if left with the right kind of note. Pick a beautiful, stronger shade of the tones she already wears on her lips and write an ode to her lips. This is also a great, inexpensive present if you just started dating (and kissing).
Art in your home
You could take your loved one to a place of beautiful sights-one in nature or one made beautiful by people. But this is a gift guide for things, so I recommend making your–her–home that place of beautiful sights. Art in your home, be it sculpture, painting, print, or else adds an immediate boost to well-being and everyday happiness.
If it is personalized and fits you uniquely it is even better, so if you can commission a piece that reflects her love of birds, the desert, the 70s, etc. and fits perfectly in a space in your home where it is seen everyday, you will have a very special gift! Bonus points if you yourself learn a craft such as woodworking, ceramics, resin-casting, and make that special something.
As a photographer I am, of course, biased here, but nothing comes close to the beauty and meaning of well-chosen, well-crafted personal photographs displayed in your home. If you and she don’t already have photographs that reflect who she is or who you are as a couple, and not just as bride and groom, get to it. It’s something that is often forgotten or pushed into the future but the future is when you will want to have them and when you regret if you don’t. Wall galleries, albums, single frames are the way to go. If you have the pictures sitting in a folder somewhere they are not the visual and meaningful pleasure they could and ought to be.
The good old mixed tape (or now playlist)
Theme it around hit songs of the year you started dating, your wedding songs, or if you have been together for really, really long, then songs that you and her associate with big moments in your relationship: first date, first dance, wedding songs, songs when your kids were born, songs from vacations you took together. Don’t mark it and don’t tell her the significance. Listen to it together in the dark, let her figure it out, and relive old memories.
If you don’t have the time or resources for a mixed tape, consider gifting the recording of a natural surrounding you two have visited or wish to see together some time in the future. For instance, the Endless Rain Record, a vinyl photograph record by artist Kouichi Okamoto plays the “soothing sounds of a Summer rainfall,” if walks in the rain are your thing. Or if you have always wanted to know what the middle of a sandstorm sounds like, Borneo at dawn, or a snowy mountain pass wind in The Grand Tetons, you can easily find soundscapes for those. And then there is Teibels’ Environments 1: Psychologically Ultimate Seashore– a classic and on iTunes. Again, listen to it in the dark, perhaps with a nice wine.
Notes on Presentation, Consumerism, and Content
If you give a gift card consider giving with it something related that can be enjoyed right away. If you gift a weekend away in Napa, give with it a bottle of fine wine. If your gift is a gift card for a couple’s massage include a set of nice spa slippers or robe. It helps with the presentation of the gift and gives your lady something to enjoy on the day of the occasion.
If you are not one for giving material things, please see this gift guide for experiences and hand-made things to gift. I, myself, am not one for stuff, waste, and pointless consumerism, and truly prefer giving experiences but sometimes a well chosen thing is just right. If you can combine it with an experience even better: gift shoes and then take her dancing, a swimsuit and take her to the beach for sunset and a swim, a silk slip and then have breakfast in bed together. In addition there are at least 4 small gifts in this guide that cost less than $20 total, and all gifts, though luxurious, are well worth their price.
Disclaimer: This post does not include sponsored content! I have not been paid by anyone to promote or mention these items and products. I purchased everything pictured here with my own money and all of the recommendations are 100% genuine, my own, and things I have or would gift myself.