Andrea Correale’s company, Elegant Affairs, has engineered ultra-decadent parties and catered to the likes of Mariah Carey and Kevin Spacey. But when it comes to Valentine’s Day, Correale has some clear advice: “There are things you can do that don’t break the bank.” 

The main idea is to break the usual routine and do things a little differently. “Make that person know you really love them,” she said. “There are so many things you can do from the heart.”

For example, in the morning, she suggested placing a “beautiful sentiment” under your loved one’s pillow. 

Or cook breakfast for him or her. You don’t even have to be an accomplished cook, she noted. All you need is a heart-shaped cookie cutter to make cut outs from toast, pancakes, or waffles—accompanied by a love note.

Andrea Correale. (Courtesy of Elegant Affairs)
Andrea Correale. (Courtesy of Elegant Affairs)

Evening at Home

If you’re staying in for dinner, it’s worth taking some measures out of the ordinary. Correale suggests covering a low table with red velvet and sitting Indian style for an intimate dinner. Set a beautiful table—either bring out the good china, or get some elegant but inexpensive flatware or plates from someplace like T.J. Maxx, Correale said. 

You could also call your partner’s family and ask them about his or her favorite childhood dish and recreate it.

If the children are around, get them involved. Make heart-shaped red jello and homemade pizza in shapes that spell out love. Or, Correale suggested this family activity: “Everyone sits down and writes five things about the person you love.” 

To cap off the night, rent a movie—a beautiful love story, or for married couples, your old wedding video to “reminisce about the years that have gone by and get to a place of gratitude,” or simply a “heartfelt” movie for the children.

Couples’ Party

Alternatively Correale suggests inviting other couples—and putting them to work.

“It’s bonding. It’s out of the box and fun to do,” she said. For a fun variation, ask everyone to come in their pajamas.

Set up your kitchen with different work stations, with each couple responsible for making one dish. One couple might be responsible for roast chicken, another for rosemary mashed potatoes, and others for a spinach apple salad and roasted Brussels sprouts, for example.

Don’t forget to get some wine ready and play some music.

Correale suggests an aphrodisiac-themed party, which can take the form of a progressive dinner party if your friends live close by, or a potluck.

The list of aphrodisiac foods is long, according to Correale. Dinner could include anything from a pomegranate champagne punch and the classic oysters, to salmon with asparagus bundles, to sautéed shrimp with chili sauce. Finish with a dessert like a chocolate soufflé or chocolate brownies with peanut butter. “Anything chocolatey,” she said.