Want to wow a woman at every pivotal point in the courtship dance? These little gifts and gestures — from candy to a framed memento — should do the trick.
Occasion: Your very first date
1. Think flowers — but with a modern twist. Steer clear of clichéd bouquets (red roses will make you look hopelessly uncreative) and show up bearing just a few parrot tulips, which look like regular tulips except they’re striped with vibrant colors, says Susan Holt, owner of Posies flower shop in New York. Or you could choose a single rose in a non-traditional hue, like orange, lavender or hot pink.
2. Try a bouquet à la carte. An armful of flowers won’t fly if you’re meeting her somewhere in public, but that doesn’t mean you have to show up empty-handed. Bring a few sprigs of jasmine tied together with a bow; they don’t require water, and they are subtle enough to leave on the table during dinner. When they dry, they’ll give off a delicious scent that’ll keep you on her mind 24/7, says Simone LeBlanc, a professional gift buyer for Concierge 3 in Los Angeles.
Occasion: After you’ve gone on a few dates
1. Prove you’ve paid attention to her likes and dislikes with a media-based gift. Score major points by getting her something tangentially related to whatever she’s voiced an interest in. If she’s mentioned her love for horses, modern art or Katharine Hepburn, for example, find a book on that topic, says Lash Fary, the “Hollywood Gift Guru” whose company, Distinctive Assets, puts together gift bags for red-carpet events. For offbeat options, go to Argosybooks.com for books or Othermusic.com for rare albums, CDs or to create your own personal soundtrack just for her.
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2. Spring a handwritten love note on her when she least expects it. Any sweet nothing you write on an actual piece of paper will sound romantic if she stumbles across it by surprise. So, try slipping a card saying “Right now I’m missing you” in her coat pocket or laptop bag before you part ways for the night.
3. Keep her favorite snack or treat handy to surprise her with when you’re together. At this stage, dropping tons of dough or getting her something too personal (i.e., clothes or household items) will look like you’re trying too hard to impress or stake your claim on her, which can be jarring. Tiny gifts will pack more punch — just ask Judy Koven, 28. “On our first date I told Ron that my favorite candy bar was a Krackel, and I complained that they’re super-hard to find,” she says. “The next time we went out, he surprised me with one at the end of the night. I thought it was so sweet.”
Occasion: You’re officially a couple
1. Write yourself into her future. This little gesture won’t cost you a thing, and yet she’ll be raving about it to her friends the very next day. When she’s not looking, grab her wall or desk calendar and a pen. Enter a few things she’ll stumble across in the coming days that will make her smile, whether that’s “It’s our one-month anniversary, let’s celebrate!” or “Save this day for you and me.” (Note: If she uses her smartphone for everything, this one could be tough to pull off; avoid snooping into anything that’s password-protected at all costs.)
2. Start stocking up on the little things she usually needs at your place. If she’s started to spend nights over regularly, show her that she’s welcome by keeping an assortment of things she loves handy, like her favorite tea for those lazy mornings when you brunch together. Or, ceremoniously clear a shelf in your bathroom cabinet or a dresser drawer, prop a card in there saying “this is all yours”... and then tell her to open it.
Occasion: Your first holiday, birthday or anniversary after becoming exclusive
1. Pick out something for her home that has a special meaning for your relationship. She’ll be touched because a gift for her home implies that you plan to spend lots of time there with her, and respect her tastes and preferences. “I’m crazy about Japanese food, and one night Matt said he was bringing it over to my place for dinner,” says Melissa Brooks, 26. “He arrived with sushi, along with a whole set of beautiful Japanese dishes, like sushi trays, soy sauce dishes, sake cups and fancy chopsticks.” Your girlfriend doesn’t dig sushi? Serve up her favorite foods on a set of the latest designer dishes at Crateandbarrel.com, or prove that you’re looking forward to spending lots of cozy couch time at her place by gifting her with a subscription to Netflix.com.
2. Frame a memento from your romantic past. Take a token from your time together thus far — say, the ticket stub from the concert you went to on your second date or the cover of a menu from the fancy restaurant where you asked her to become exclusive — and have it professionally framed. It’ll remind her that you think your relationship is special enough to preserve and show off your sentimental side.
Celeste Perron is a New York-based freelance writer. In her mind, the best love tokens are actually the classics: a red rose and some dark chocolate.