One of the reasons people indicate that they ‘hate’ Valentine’s Day is because it’s too commercial. Indeed, the vast majority of our survey respondents indicated that some form of gift is expected (88%). So we wanted to know (a) how people prefer to receive their gifts and (b) what types of gifts they prefer.
How do people prefer to receive gifts?
Do people want to flaunt their Valentine’s Day riches by receiving a gift in public? Or is it best to receive a gift privately? The vast majority (65%) of those surveyed preferred a private gift. One-third of our respondents indicated they had no preference --- public or private is fine. If you’re adding up the numbers, it should be clear that very few people prefer to receive their gift in a public setting; less than 2% of those surveyed opted for a ‘flaunt what you got’ approach.
So if you’re on the fence about giving your gift during an intimate one-on-one moment vs. sending a singing Valentine-A-Gram to your Valentine’s place of work, opt for the more personal approach. It’s the safest route (worst case scenario, you’ll find out whether your partner is one of the 2%).
What types of gifts do people prefer to receive?
To get at this question, we asked survey respondents to respond to the following two open-ended questions:
- What is the perfect Valentine's Day gift for a woman to receive? (please fill in anything you think a woman would most like)
- What is the perfect Valentine's Day gift for a man to receive? (please fill in anything you think a man would most like)
With that in mind, here are the top gifts listed for women and men (the results below identify the gifts women say women want, and the gifts men say men want unless otherwise noted). I wish we could say the results are shocking. They’re not.
The #1 most preferred gift women want for Valentine’s Day
That’s right. Jewelry. Turns out all those ads on TV may be on to something. 30% of the women in our sample listed some sort of jewelry as the best gift for a woman to receive on Valentine’s Day (and 37% of men agreed – looks like the message is coming in loud and clear).
The #2 most preferred gift women want for Valentine’s Day
Flowers were listed by 18% of the women who took our survey (with 27% of men thinking flowers is the best way to go for women). But there are a lot of different flowers out there, so which ones are best? In a separate question, we asked individuals to rank-order 10 different types of flowers, in order of most preferred to least preferred for Valentine’s Day. Here are 4 of the 10 flower types we provided (in no particular order). Can you order them from most to least preferred? Your options are carnations, something exotic, red roses, and daisies.
And survey says!:
Not surprisingly, red roses reigned supreme – receiving the highest spot out of the 10 options provided (the four above, plus white roses, yellow roses, mixed roses, lilies, tulips, mixed bouquet). The lowest ranked type of flower was daisies. Maybe because they’re pretty much a weed. Just sayin’. Or as ScienceOfRelationship.com’s Dr. Schoenfeld informed me, “every woman knows that daisies are synonymous with friendship.”
Admittedly, I assumed that ‘something exotic’ would finish higher in the list (it finished in 6th place overall), but my perception may be driven by the fact that my wife is particularly fond of the very-hard-to-find ranunculus.
The problem with less common varieties of flowers is that, at least according to our sample, they are polarizing, with people either loving them or hating them: About 25% of the women in our sample rated ‘something exotic’ as their 1st or 2nd choice, but 25% ranked them in one of the bottom two slots. How’s that for mixed messages? The key here is that if you know your Valentine has a favorite exotic flower, then roll with it. If you’re not sure, don’t step too far outside the box.
Although carnations finished in 8th place overall, don’t rule them out altogether. In fact, 57% of female respondents ranked carnations as one of their top 5 flowers for Valentine’s Day, making them a fairly safe bet if you’re either (a) not willing to spend an exorbitant marked-up price on red roses, or (b) your local florist is all out of your top choice.
But wait, we’re not quite done with flowers. Given the popularity of roses, we thought it would be interesting to see which types of roses were most vs. least preferred. Here are the four types we asked about, again in no particular order:
And here’s how they stacked up relative to one another based on our survey results:
As noted above, red roses are the traditional favorite, and this is one tradition that isn’t going anywhere. But after that, the order of preference was mixed roses, then white roses, followed by yellow roses. As a native Texan, I am offended that our state flower didn’t fair better. Maybe we should secede. (Editor’s note: If just considering respondents from TX, yellow roses were the 3rd most preferred type of rose, and the fifth most preferred flower overall. State pride at its best).
The #3 most preferred gift women want for Valentine’s Day
If all else fails, and you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong buying the woman in your life a thoughtful, heartfelt card. 15% of our respondents indicated that a card or other thoughtful gift (e.g., “something he has been wanting”) is perfect for Valentine’s Day. In fact, many of our respondents noted that a handmade card is especially nice to receive. Basically, if you give your partner anything that shows you put thought into your gift and that you value your her and your relationship, then your Valentine’s Day is going to be off to an excellent start (assuming your sentiments are reciprocated, of course).
What didn’t make the top? Perhaps not surprisingly, nobody indicated that Valentine’s Day is the right time to break out that ‘joke’ or ‘gag’ gift you’ve had your eye on. Interestingly, both ‘sex’ and ‘sexy clothing’ barely made it on the list of perfect women’s gifts, with only 2% and 1% listing one of these two types of gifts, respectively. Why not? Because, as many know, sexy clothing for her is really a gift for him.
Which brings us to the perfect gifts for men to receive on Valentine’s Day…
The #1 most preferred gift men want for Valentine’s Day
S-E-X. A whopping 46% of our male respondents indicated that the perfect gift for them on Valentine’s Day is sex.
And we won’t go into all the gory details, but some guys were quite specific regarding exactly what type of sex they have in mind. My eyes still burn. Think what you want, but at least it’s free, right?
The #2-#5 most preferred gifts men want for Valentine’s Day
After sex, several other gifts each received about 6% of the vote, including a “thoughtful/heartfelt card,” “jewelry,” “cologne,” and “other.” We recognize that this last gift type isn’t particularly informative, but we can say that the vast majority of gifts listed by respondents that were categorized as ‘other’ were video games or some sort of clothing.
We didn’t originally include ‘video games’ in our options, but that’s primarily because we assumed people would list things that generally directed attention toward the partner or relationship. Silly us. Nothing like a little Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft to get the romantic juices flowing. And never underestimate the power of nice new plaid sport shirts for Spring!
In fact, given that even men appear to appreciate a good thoughtful expression of love, you might kill two birds with one proverbial stone by giving a video-game themed card.
What didn’t come up often as perfect gifts for men? Once again, getting something living (e.g., a pet) was rarely mentioned (.1% of respondents) and only .2% said flowers.
So there you have it. In the end, it appears that a lot of the stereotypical beliefs about Valentine’s Day gifts have at least a kernel of truth to them. And, for what it’s worth, men and women seem to have a pretty firm handle on what the other gender wants the most for Valentine’s Day. Now, exactly why people hold these preferences wasn’t addressed in our survey. It’s likely that the commercialization surrounding Valentine’s Day is at least partly responsible (newsflash: every kiss begins with Kay). But I’ve yet to see the corresponding “every Valentine’s Day begins with sex” commercial targeted towards men, so there are clearly other factors at play. Regardless, if he gets what he wants for Valentine’s Day, then we recommend he read up first to make his gift mutually enjoyable. And if you're still not sure what to get your special someone for Valentine's Day, you could always try asking him or her.
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Dr. Tim Loving - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Loving's research addresses the mental and physical health impact of relationship transitions (e.g., falling in love, breaking up) and the role friends and family serve as we adapt to these transitions. He's a former Associate Editor of Personal Relationships and his research has been funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.