Valentine's Day is a special time of the year for couples of all ages but finding and choosing an appropriate gift for your partner can be difficult.
Below are some tips and tricks to keep Valentine's Day gifts exciting and fresh no matter what stage of the relationship you're in.
Photo Courtesy of Hot Tomato Pin-up Academy
A customer of Hot Tomato Pin-up Academy located in Belpre poses during her photo shoot.
Valentine's Day can be a stressful time for those who are in a newly formed relationship.
"One of the challenges of the holiday is that there are expectations but they are often unspoken," according to Otto Collins, a relationship coach in Columbus.
Otto and his wife Susie have written a number of books and offer coaching seminars for couples in all stages of relationships.
At a glance
The average person plans to spend $130.97 on gifts for Valentine's Day this year.
Last year the average person spent $126.03
Total spending is expected to reach $18.6 billion.
51 percent of gift givers will buy candy, spending $1.6 billion in total.
36.6 percent will give flowers, with total spending expected to top $1.9 billion.
19.7 percent treat their special someone to jewelry, spending more than $4.4 billion on diamonds, gold and silver.
15.6 percent will buy clothing, spending more than $1.6 billion.
15 percent of gift givers will buy gift cards for their loved ones, totaling $1.5 billion.
Source: The National Retail Federation.
"What we tell everyone is that no matter what stage of your relationship, you need to make your expectations for Valentine's Day clear ," he said. "Take the time to find out what types of things your significant other enjoys and remember."
Games can be a great way to find out what your date is going to enjoy for Valentine's Day.
"We always recommend playing a little trivia game or something," Otto said. "It's a playful and easy way to learn more about each others' interests."
Due to price and convenience, flowers and chocolate are popular choices as Valentine's Day gifts especially for new couples. This is because they are a gift that can be purchased with little to no knowledge of a someone's personality.
"We have so many different combinations of vases and flowers available, but it's safe to say that roses are the most popular order,"said Linda Ingraham, manager of Dudley's Florist in Marietta.
For those looking for traditional gifts with a twist, a website called mymms.com allows you to create a customized candy treat for your significant other.
Another idea for those in new relationships is a customized teddy bear from buildabear.com. Customers are able to choose from hundreds of styles of bears including some that are special Valentine's Day themes.
A wide range of animals are available to choose from, and customers can even record or embroider a personal message to their loved one.
In new relationships most parties are just beginning to learn the personality of their partners.
"The first Valentine's Day gift can be a real test of knowledge about how well you actually have gotten to know each other," said Eric Bates, 22, a Marietta College student and Sarahsville resident who has been dating Amanda Thorp for a month.
For those who have dated for longer, there are other challenges.
Tyler Sprigg, 22, of Belpre has been in a relationship with his girlfriend for the past three years and has already tried to find ways to keep Valentine's Day fresh.
"I always do flowers, candy and a card and while those things are nice, they aren't very special," Sprigg said.
A couple of years ago the couple started giving each other coupons for certain things on Valentine's Day.
"Haley and I are busy generally so in the past we have made what we called 'get out of jail free' cards," Sprigg said. "These cards, when used, would require the other to cook dinner, give a foot massage or other simple things like that."
Homemade sweets can be another relatively inexpensive and safe gift in a new relationship.
Couples who have recently become engaged or married should be more familiar with their significant other's personality.
Understanding the personality of a spouse is important in helping choose a gift that will make them happy.
Once you are more comfortable with the person you are in a relationship with, it becomes easier to branch out into more exciting and intimate gifts.
A nice bottle of wine can be the perfect addition to that romantic Valentine's evening.
At the Unicorn Wine Guild in Belpre, customers can make their own wine to give as a gift and at winery and lounge Marietta Wine Cellars there are plenty of seasonal wines that make a great gift this time of year.
"All of our sweeter red wines are very popular because they go so well with chocolates," said Kari Rings, of Marietta Wine Cellars. "We also have a special wine called Cherish that we made specifically for Valentine's Day last year. It's a sweet cherry wine with a heart on the label."
These types of gifts are fun and fresh ways to surprise a loved one, but more traditional gifts can still be very effective.
Those in longterm relationships might be willing to spend more money on a gift like jewelry.
"Jewelry is the quickest way to a girl's heart. It always outlasts candy or flowers," said Larry Hall, owner of Baker and Baker Jewelers in Marietta. "We have some awesome gifts including our Alex and Ani bracelets that are made out of recycled metals. They are incredibly popular right now and are very affordable."
For Caleb Dille, 22, of McConnelsville, jewelry has never been the answer for Valentine's Day.
"Stephanie and I have been married for almost two months now, and have been dating for seven years before that." Dille said. "We try to keep our gifts thoughtful and simple, because we know how much we love one another."
Dille is a strong believer that a gift should reflect what the core of the relationship is built upon.
"No matter what else I get, I try to give her a funny card with it because humor is a huge part of our relationship," Dille said.
As a newlywed, he said he's excited about adding a little more romance this Valentine's Day than in years past.
"This year I'm going to send flowers to her at school while she is teaching," Dille said. "I've also made dinner reservations for us in the evening."
Couples looking for a fun gift can also turn to Hot Tomato Pinup Academy in Belpre.
The company provides people the chance to do a full photo shoot in the attire and style of their choice.
"We do everything from your typical retro photos all the way to something a little more modern," said owner Jesse Hyde. "We offer people the chance to do a fun and playful photo shoot that they can give to their significant other. I absolutely recommend it as a fun change of pace type of a gift for all ages."
Couples who have been married for a significant amount of time can face the problem of keeping Valentine's Day from being stale.
Finding ways to make a simple gift unique can change a gift from being thoughtless and boring to new and exciting.
"We have some unique and exciting options to choose from," Hall said. "We actually have roses that are dipped in 24 carat gold."
"One man bought a dozen roses for his wife and placed our golden rose in the middle," he said. "Attached he had a card that read, the one rose that will last forever."
For Joseph Rabbene 52, of Williamstown, Valentine's Day is a day to be spontaneous and focus on each other, although he isn't opposed to purchasing gifts for the holiday.
"My wife is a huge fan of Putnam Chocolates so I'll get her some of those and put them in Fenton glass," Rabbene said. "For every couple the day is going to be different, but the love and respect they have for each other should be the same."
Another great way to spice up Valentine's Day is to go on a trip.
"The best Valentine's Day my husband Rick and I ever had was in 2004 when we went to a motorcycle show in Columbus," said Tasha Werry, 38, of Coolville. "It was a last minute trip with two of our friends to celebrate their anniversary."
The weekend was special for Werry because with busy schedules, time together is often limited.
"My husband owns his own trucking company and I'm currently working for Marietta City Schools while attending graduate school at OU," she said. "I would appreciate a romantic getaway with my husband more now than I did when we went."
For couples who enjoy taking a trip with each other for Valentine's Day, bed and breakfasts are a wonderful choice for a gift.
"Generally around Valentine's Day we see married couples in their mid-to-late 40s," said Judy Grize, owner of the House on Harmar Hill in Marietta.
"We always try to do something special for our guests on Valentine's Day without them knowing about it," Grize said. "In the past we've done special additions to breakfast such as chocolate covered strawberries or mimosas."
Gifts are always nice to receive, but Otto and Susie Collins said they believe a gesture of love and commitment in a marriage is just as important.
"As a marriage matures, simple gifts such as revisiting a first date can go a long way," Susie said. "It may seem like a little thing, but it can really make your spouse feel special."
Over the years a relationship evolves, so it only makes since that the way one celebrates Valentine's Day would evolve with it.
"We have been married for 50 years and our romance for each other is as strong as ever," said Sharon Gardner, of Marietta.
While the romance hasn't changed, Sharon and her husband Don have celebrated Valentine's Day very differently the past 10 or so years.
"We take the time to craft and write our valentines to each other rather than buying a gift," Gardner said. "It gives us something to do with our grandchildren while we express our love."
Crafted Valentine's Day gifts can be a thoughtful and fun way to treat your spouse.
For the Gardners, Valentine's Day was never about what they did or received, but rather the time they were able to spend with each other.
"Occasionally in the past we would go out for dinner, but it always felt like a bad night to be out because it was so busy," she said. "We would rather just stay in and make our own food and spend time with each other."