Romance is a dying art. It saddens me to hear someone gush about their partner tidying the kitchen or running a bath. Yes, these are lovely gestures — well, the kitchen should be standard — but what about true spontaneity and effort?
Cambridge dictionary defines ‘romantic’ as exciting, mysterious, and ‘having a strong effort on your emotions.’ This means stepping out of the box and getting creative with how you surprise your partner, so it’s not boring or typical. Romantic gestures don’t have to be grand or expensive – often, the small surprises can make the strongest impression.
For some inspiration, I have researched traditional ideas from the past. Here are some historic ways to express your love.
1. Floriography – the language of flowers
Floriography is the art of communicating through flowers. Each flower has a different meaning, so when you put them together, a bouquet can express your emotions. Although floriography can be traced to the Egyptians, it was the Victorians who popularised this gesture.
Rather than choosing a standard bouquet, why not create something bespoke and handpick each stem? I remember seeing this in the film Alfie with Jude Law and thinking it was a sweet idea.
2. A handwritten letter
I’m sure it’s no surprise love letters made the list. In Britain, they became fashionable in the late 18th century, when the first romance book ‘Pamela’ was created. My boyfriend wrote me a long love letter for our first Christmas together which I still love reading.
They don’t have to be soppy or cheesy, and you don’t need to be Shakespeare to create.
To create, think about:
Personal compliments — we often praise physical appearance without admiring personality or unique traits. Consider the qualities that your partner may not appreciate but you adore.
Memories — include milestones and funny stories.
Appreciation — research shows that gratitude from your partner can increase relationship satisfaction. Acknowledge how grateful you are for their love and support, including the little things you may forget to usually mention.
Commitment — share your dreams for the future and assure them of your unwavering dedication to your relationship.
Encouragement — if your partner is struggling through a difficult time with their career or unsure about reaching their ambitions, telling them you believe in them is a big confidence boost.
Things you love doing together — mention how you love spending time as a couple, and that you’re proud to be with them.
To make the letter more special, buy a stationary set and a wax seal or ribbon to present it.
3. Symbolic love tokens
According to the Museum of London, love tokens have been around for centuries, with different rituals and styles from various time periods. In Medieval times, for instance, brooches were a thoughtful gift that people could wear and display. But during the Victorian era, people exchanged more sentimental items like engraved lockets and personalised handkerchiefs.
Instead of the usual romantic gestures of jewellery and chocolate, choose a unique love token. This could be a relationship map with all the significant places from your time together, a memory jar with small notes containing important moments, or even planting a tree in honour of them.
4. Love spoons
Speaking of love tokens —Welsh love spoons date back hundreds of years. They are carved wooden spoons that young men traditionally made to express their affection. Each spoon had a carefully chosen design which included personal symbols and motifs.
While Love spoons are easily available with options for adding your name, for a truly romantic gesture, create a bespoke one from scratch.
5. Custom artwork
During the Renaissance period, wealthy couples commissioned portraits of themselves or their loved ones as special occasion gifts for their partners. Many of the paintings depict couples affectionate together.
While commissioning artwork is still expensive, Etsy offers affordable custom artwork options. Another alternative is to arrange a photoshoot together or even create a personal photo album of your memories.
6. Monthly romantic days
So this gesture is not as historic as the others, but it’s still worth mentioning. Valentine’s Day might be commercialised and arguably unromantic — but I like that people have at least one day of the year to act romantically. Another alternative is to draw inspiration from Korea, who have a love holiday every 14th day of the month.
For example, June 14th is Kiss Day while October 14th is Wine Day. You could find activities or create themes for each month, such as Massage Day or Cheese & Wine Day. I love unique date nights so I would consider scheduling a unique date every month.
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