A Frugal Weirdo’s Anti-Valentine’s Day Manifesto

We don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, which I’m sure surprises no one given our status as chief frugal weirdos. I could rant about how dumb of a holiday Valentine’s Day is (very dumb) and how terrible of a deal it is to eat out on February 14th (rather terrible indeed). But what I really want to talk about is why my relationship with Mr. Frugalwoods doesn’t need Valentine’s Day.

Here’s the thing: every convention of Valentine’s Day has the opposite effect of what’s intended. The forced consumerism of this fabricated holiday does nothing to foster a true bond with your partner. And, if you feel like you have to go out on February 14th and spend a ton of money, there might be something else going on in your relationship that should be addressed. Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I wanted to do a frugal analysis of this most oddly consumeristic of holidays.

Sidenote: we’re just back from a week in sunny San Diego visiting my family and so all of the photos in this post are from our trip. Also, since we don’t celebrate V Day, I don’t have any Valentine’s-related photos… Furthermore, there’s a blizzard happening here in Boston right now, so the palm trees are a nice juxtaposition.

CA_Sunset

The palm trees on my parents’ property outside of San Diego. And, the sky is not photoshopped–their sunset actually looks like that!

Heart Strings are Connected to the Purse Strings

The charade of Valentine’s Day is beyond ridiculous. It’s intended to tug at your heart strings, which for many people, are directly tied to the purse strings. But what’s the point? To impress each other? To prove the depth of your love to other people? It seems to me that sending overpriced flowers to your lover on Valentine’s Day is more an opportunity to show off your devotion to colleagues. “Oh yes, my partner loves me so much that they wasted $100 on tacky roses.” I mean seriously. Ok whoops, maybe I did rant just a tiny bit there.

Mr Frugalwoods and I have gone out for exactly one Valentine’s Day over the course of our entire 10-year+ relationship. Guess which one it was? The very first. We were young (no seriously, we were only 20), in love (maybe not quite love yet), and we wanted to do all those things you’re supposed to do in a relationship. Aha–there’s that pesky societal convention: what you’re supposed to do.

Go Against the Grain and Save Dough

I firmly believe that going against prevailing societal norms yields greater happiness and freedom. Avoiding the ladder of endless lifestyle inflation and the carousel of consumerism enables Mr. FW and I to carve out a meaningful, fulfilling life on our own terms–not a life governed by the mindless accumulation of stuff.

Mr. FW and I on a walk in the canyon near my parents' house

Mr. FW and I on a walk in the canyon near my parents’ house

Parallel to our disavowal of the need to spend money is our belief in the preposterousness of Valentine’s Day. Since everyone else follows the herd and trots out to dinner on February 14th, that night has got to be the worst deal for dining out. Since we never eat out, I realize my protestations are a bit superfluous. But if you do typically eat out, you could not pick a more horrendous night to be in a restaurant (unless you happen to work at one, in which case I imagine the tips are fabulous).

One of our core frugal weirdo tactics is figuring out when all the normal, spendy people are doing something and then doing the exact opposite. We don’t fly at Christmastime, we travel abroad over Thanksgiving, and we certainly don’t observe Valentine’s Day on 2/14.

The Value of Genuine Intimacy

One of the reasons Mr. FW and I (before I was Mrs. FW) dined out on the societally prescribed day of romance was the very nature of our relationship. It was nascent, immature (just like us), and not yet on solid footing. In other words, we needed (or felt we needed) the crutch of faux intimacy that the hyper-commercialized Valentine’s Day provides.

Palm trees in daylight!

Palm trees in daylight!

The synthetic idea of love that the holiday parrots can sadly be employed as a substitute for truly connecting with one’s partner. The mere idea that arbitrarily giving each other random chocolates* and stuffed bears will forge closeness is blatantly absurd.

*For the record, I do love chocolate and anyone is welcome to gift me some at any time other than Valentine’s Day. Especially if it was on sale and has caramel and/or sea salt–or any type of peanut butter. It helps that I know Mr. FW is reading this.

For us, once our relationship hit a certain level of maturity and intimacy, things like Valentine’s Day diminished in importance. We usually don’t exchange Christmas, birthday, or anniversary gifts either for this same reason. But our avoidance of these codes of conduct doesn’t mean we neglect our marriage.

I’ve actually found that the inverse is true. The less we rely on pre-fabricated tools for intimacy, the more creative and memorable our demonstrations of love for each other have become (for example, the year I gave Mr. FW a tank piston for Christmas). It’s like sending a greeting card with a message transcribed by a corporation versus writing a poem from the heart (something my dad has done almost all 48 years of his marriage to my mom).

Learning From the Past

Mr. Frugalwoods and I haven’t always been in such a rosy relationship position and we made a list of the reasons why we struggled to connect with each other in the past.

Characteristics of the bad times in the Frugalwoods marriage:

  • Hawks circling in the sun

    Hawks circling in the sun

    Lost sight of our shared goals (or didn’t have them at all)

  • Didn’t feel connected to each other
  • Couldn’t communicate clearly
  • Didn’t spend enough time together
  • Weren’t invested in projects together
  • Didn’t demonstrate enough respect for one another

No overpriced restaurant meal or flowers will fix a relationship that’s hurting like ours once was. Quite the contrary, we found that artificial, materialistic activities had the opposite effect–their triteness made us feel even more distant and out of touch with each other.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day seemed a hollow gesture to both of us and it didn’t address the more serious challenges we were facing. The consumer orgy of Valentine’s Day is the anti-cure for relationship blues and, in some instances, serves as a smoke screen to gloss over true fractures in a partnership.

The One Thing We Don’t Have On Autopilot

So if you’re not going to celebrate Valen-day, how do you foster a strong marriage? Despite my evangelization of optimized frugal efficiency in the arenas of money management, meal planning, and other rote daily procedures, I do not advocate putting your marriage on autopilot. That’s essentially what Mr. FW and I did a few years ago and our relationship suffered tremendously. As we learned, a marriage needs to be actively nurtured and cultivated in order to thrive (apologies for the garden analogies… what can I say, they’re apt!).

Mr. and Mrs. FW enjoying the sunset

Mr. and Mrs. FW enjoying the sunset

I think it’s imperative to do special things to enhance your relationship. And so, in theory, having a day where you focus on your partner and what they mean to you is a marvelous thing.

But for us, it’s not going to happen on Valentine’s Day. Furthermore, it’s not going to happen on just one day of the year. It’s more of an all-encompassing, everyday affair here at Frugalwoods HQ and we affirm our love for each other regularly.

So how do we do it? Through honest communication. We’ve grown closer, strengthened our marriage, and find ourselves happier than we’ve ever been. I know, I know! That’s not as exciting as a romantic getaway to Siberia or fancy beard-themed lingerie (I hope that doesn’t actually exist…), but it’s the truth. The outward, showy trappings of a “good” relationship–flowers, nights out on the town, custom interlocking heart necklaces (please tell me those don’t exist either)–don’t comprise the infrastructure of a sound partnership. Here’s what does for us.

Characteristics of the current good times in the Frugalwoods marriage:

  • I can't believe they laugh at me so much. This is just how I sit.

    I can’t believe they laugh at me so much. This is just how I sit.

    Excellent communication norms (see our conversation outline below)

  • Neither of us is a jerk (don’t underestimate the power of being nice to each other)
  • We have our finances under control, to put it lightly, which means we never argue about money (financial disagreements are the leading cause of divorce)
  • We’re in great health and we foster that health by eating well and exercising together
  • Shared hobbies and interests (hiking, frugality, Frugal Hound, the woods, other things)
  • We’re best friends (we like to hang out–see above hobbies)
  • Steadfast and shared focus on our long-term goal (financial independence on a homestead!)
  • Humor. Lots and lots of humor.

I’ve discussed in the past how our relationship has flourished under frugality, and it honestly has. Instead of focusing on what we’re going to buy each other, we’re focused on connecting authentically. Instead of lusting after the empty promises of lifestyle inflation, we’re committed to our shared dream of moving to our future homestead in the woods. But we haven’t arrived in this place by accident. Its taken us years of concerted communication and active work to solidify our goals and get on the same page about what we want out of life.

What Makes Our Marriage Strong (hint: it doesn’t involve spending money)

Me checking out the sunset

Me checking out the sunset

In our experience, being aligned in our long-term goals and communicating frequently is paramount to enjoying a deep connection. I’ve shared the outline we follow for our finance dates before, but it bears repeating since we apply that model to a whole host of conversation topics in our relationship.

Below are the steps we take anytime we feel disconnected, have had an argument, or its been awhile since we truly checked-in with each other. Following this roadmap helps us move past our anger/frustration and instead isolate what’s legitimately bothering us and collaborate on next steps.

The Frugalwoods relationship check-in outline:

  1. Recap. Review how things have been going since your last check-in. If this is your first check-in, consider the past week or month. Analyze arguments and conflicts as well as successes.
  2. Individual check-in. Take turns sharing your feelings about your relationship. This is a time for purely individual reflection.
  3. Praise and thanks. Don’t laugh–this part is important. Things might’ve gotten heated during #1 and #2, so take a moment to voice gratitude for something your partner has done recently.
  4. Hot topics! This is the time to dig deep and address any burning issues. Be forthright without attacking the other person.
    • Explore the root of each problem.
    • Use active listening phrases such as: “I understand that you feel ____ .” “I observe that you ____ .” And MOST crucially: “How can I be helpful to you in achieving  ____  and what do you need from me?”
    • Write down your agreed-upon next steps.
  5. Three wishes. Take turns articulating your “three wishes” for the future. This is an opportunity to talk about how you can achieve these aspirations together.
Mr. FW scoping the sunset

Mr. FW scoping the sunset

It might seem un-romantic to follow an outline of talking points in order to connect with your partner, but I’d argue it’s vastly more romantic than giving each other Valentine balloon bears from Walgreen’s.

We’ve only been married for 6.5 years and I know we have many more hurdles to face together, but I sincerely hope we’re girded for the challenge. I can’t imagine life without Mr. Frugalwoods (or Frugal Hound!) and I find myself working towards a deeper connection with him every single day. Just as there are always more opportunities to boost our frugality, there are always more ways to strengthen our relationship.

Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? How do you forge a genuine connection with your parter?

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138 Responses

  1. Amy says:

    My husband and I don’t really do anything for each other. He used to buy me flowers, but the cats would eat them and then throw up. Neither the ridiculous cost of Valentines flowers, nor cleaning up cat vomit are very romantic, so he stopped.

    I typically make cookies, and we usually give our daughter a small gift.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh no, cats + flowers! What is it with animals eating things that’ll make them throw up? Frugal Hound is a notorious grass-eater. But making cookies sounds like a great idea to me :)!

  2. Gorgeous sunset picture! We don’t exchange gifts on Valentine’s Day, but we usually have a fun dinner at home (all four of us)!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you! I’m always amazed by the sunsets they have out there. A fun dinner for the whole fam sounds like a fabulous way to celebrate!

  3. Working retails and a house fired really killed celebrating anything to be honest. Seeing how much people spend on “Holidays” and how much money people spend and how much junk they buy was an eye opener. I dislike clutter, I don’t’ have much, I dislike to waste money or told how to waste my money. 🙂
    I love your relationship outline very much. Great post.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Agreed on the dislike of clutter–it’s just no good for the mind or the house! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

  4. Instead of eating out, maybe the FW household should spurge on a home-cooked turkey or beef dinner. Frugal Hound would sure appreciate scraps, I’m sure!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Frugal Hound loves your suggestion :)! She’s our certified turkey freak, even though we only make it once a year on Thanksgiving. If we ever cooked beef, I think she’d be over the moon. Poor dog does not get much meat!

  5. Sometimes I receive a heart-shaped box of chocolate, which I enjoy as a pleasant novelty. Usually no card–V-Day is right after my birthday, so creating a second handmade card (often with handwritten rhyme) on such short notice might tax Mr. FP’s resources!

    I dread the approach of school-year’s Valentines. It was bad enough at day care last year–the boys weren’t even there that day (not their usual day) and they STILL got giant bags of cheap preprinted cards, pencils, candy, etc. sent by their one- and two-year-old classmates (really?!). It will be hard to figure out some alternative to this system that doesn’t embarrass the boys, as they get old enough to understand what’s going on better. Sigh.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh man–I didn’t even think about the school-year Valentine’s craziness! Ugh. I remember homemaking paper Valentine’s for classmates as a kid, which I genuinely enjoyed doing. My mom had a box of construction paper, stickers, and old paper doilies, which I’d cut into heart shapes and write little messages on. That was at least more personal and more of a creative activity than just handing out the pre-printed squares of cardboard.

  6. Mrs PoP says:

    The closest we’ve ever come to “celebrating” Valentine’s Day was our first (eleven years ago) when Mr PoP brought me a single rose that he picked up at the gas station on his way back to our dorm that night. I was working until midnight, so he gave it to me while I was still on duty and I said something like, “Aww, thanks. But you should know I don’t ever expect anything for Valentine’s Day ever again.” And that was that.

    As for communicating and relationship building, the best time for us to do that is on a walk. Preferably a long-ish one (more than just the mile loop we do in the neighborhood each night), and someplace where we can walk side-by-side like the beach rather than one behind another as happens often on hikes.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You two are so similar to us–I love it! Totally agree on the benefits of the long walk-and-talk. We always get really excited when there’s a wide trail or fire road on a hike and we can hold hands :). It’s the little things (just like the pet poop…).

  7. Mrs SSC says:

    Mr SSC and I don’t celebrate Valentines Day at all. Instead I tell him that “every day I get to spend with him is Valentine’s Day for me” And then he promptly rolls his eyes…

    I do like your advice for couples. We’ve been married for just over 6 years, and I find that the key is communicate, and then communicate some more. Pretty much, 95% of our issues could be solved or avoided if we just communicate better.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Awwww… every day IS Valentine’s Day ;)! Hahah, Mr. FW would probably roll his eyes too.

      You are so right about communicating–it seems so simple, but there’s really an art to it! I’m always amazed that we continue to learn more about each other, and our communication preferences, as time goes on.

  8. Could not agree more Mrs. FW! I think we’ve gone out twice for V – day over the course of our relationship…and that was right in the beginning of it. We don’t need a calendar to tell us when we should tell the other that we love them…because that really should be done everyday. 🙂 That said, this is why open communication is so important in order to make sure both are on the same page. As for us, we usually spend V – day giving the kiddos a small treat that we usually make ourselves and then my wife and I will make dinner together. Much cheaper, we get time together and no reservations to make. 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      You bring up a great point that I forgot to mention–make sure your partner is on the same page before deciding to forgo gifts! Definitely a key time to communicate :). It seems like many folks go out for V day in the early years of a relationship, but not so much after years of togetherness.

  9. We do not celebrate Valentine’s Day for all of the reasons you mention. I personally always say that I love “just because” gestures from my hubby more than anything else and Valentine’s Day is not a just because moment, it’s forced by an industry built around it. We have been together for 13 years and we have shared a great deal of ups and downs along the way, but the most important and romantic thing for us is to focus on each other. When we give our time and energy to each other, we have the best and most meaningful times in our marriage.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So well said! It really is about giving each other time, respect, and love. Everything else is just a distraction!

  10. Trista says:

    I’m currently single. But even when I wasn’t I was never really one to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

    I was at the dollar store yesterday and I was behind a mother who had over $60 worth of valentine’s stuff. It looked like she was going to be doing bags for her child’s classmates. It made me glad I don’t have to deal with all of that. When we were kids there were only paper valentines, no sweets, toys or stationary. It must get pretty costly for parents.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Wow–$60 of Valentine’s stuff! Ack! It was a lot simpler when I was a kid too. I just made homemade Valentine’s for my classmates out of construction paper 🙂

      • strandedrocks says:

        Hand made cards are the best! I have a valentine’s card from John (cannot remember who he was) where he drew a skipping rope then wrote skipping rope with an arrow. It’s not cut straight at all but it’s my favourite card, it makes me smile every time I come across it.

  11. The Roamer says:

    Kudos… ( I felt great article has become over used)

    I knew you guys were good role models for me for a reason. I love how you talk about what you want and sneak in some finance stuff so that it ties in to the blogs theme.

    I need to tag this page, I like your conversation guidelines, it goes along with my relationships article where I talk about planning out date night. I agree sure it might not seem romantic but it is more romantic/ beneficial to the marriage then just throwing my hands up in the air and hoping everything just happens. Waking up 5 yrs later dissatisfied.

    I like your approach take responsibility, be proactive. Do you still use your guidelines or have they become second nature after all the practice

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much! We do still use the guidelines from time to time. Mostly, our serious conversations just follow that outline naturally, but sometimes we’ll actually pull them out and run down the list. I find it helps make a frustrating/challenging conversation become productive and useful. And I agree–it’s definitely more romantic than suffering through a relationship that’s not working!

  12. Ben Luthi says:

    LOVED this post. My wife and I are toying with the idea of no gifts on Valentine’s Day, but even the thought of it spurs guilt of not conforming to the traditional ways of expressing love and devotion. But regardless of how anyone feels about Valentine’s Day, the second half of this post is absolutely golden.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you so much! I’m so glad to hear it! That little conversation outline has really helped us navigate challenging issues in the past and it’s nice to know we can use it anytime we’re feeling overwhelmed/frustrated about a situation.

  13. Norm says:

    Marge and I celecrated our first Valentines Day when were 18 and 19. We had no money, so couldn’t do anything, but we exchanged Valentines. The handwritten letter she gave me is still one of my most prized possessions. A dinner would be quickl forgotten, I will always have that letter.

    We did the Valentines thing for a few years after that, but never spent money. It’s just an arbitrary, meaningless date, and weather-wise, a particularly nasty time of year in the northeast anyway. We usually do something for our dating anniversary, a time that actually holds meaning for us.

    Did you get back to Cambridge before the storm? We are currently still stuck in Florida after two days of cancelled flights. Not a bad place to be stuck, but I’m not looking forward to the work waiting for me at home.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      We did make it back just before the storm, which we were both pretty happy about since we actually love the snow. Too bad you’re stuck in Florida and missing all of the fun :)!

      We celebrate our anniversary too–it’s definitely much more meaningful than February 14th!

  14. Hey Mr and Mrs FW,

    You both have a great outlook on your relationship. I would bet that since you both have gone through the tough times and brought your marriage to a place where you’re pulling on the same side of the rope (instead of playing tug-of-war), that you observe most couples around you unintentionally, but actively, destroying their marriage. Like many other important things in life, the steps to making something great aren’t complicated but instead very very simple (that’s not to say it isn’t difficult to be nice to your spouse when you don’t feel like it!).

    Much like the idea of FI, once you discover the key to a great marriage and start implementing steps (whether formal or not), you can’t fathom the idea of returning to the way you previously thought. Good for you (truly from the bottom of my heart)!

    On the topic of Valentine’s Day, I completely agree with everything you’ve said here. Meg and I have taken a similar route over the last several years – skipping most superfluous holidays. The thing that completely and utterly sets these events up to fail is expectations. I know for years I felt like I could never meet her expectations, and at that point I probably couldn’t because we weren’t in a good spot in our relationship.

    For example:
    Back then, if I didn’t buy flowers for a while, she’d complain that she hadn’t gotten flowers for so long. So I’d run out and get a dozen roses the next day. Well, that would just compound things because then the only reason to her that I bought flowers was because she had complained, and the flowers had no meaning. I’d get frustrated, she’d get frustrated, and brown stuff would hit the fan.

    Fast forward to today – heck, she’s my best friend and we love being around each other. Sure, maybe once or twice a year I’ll pick up something out of the blue, but it can be something as simple as a single rose or a flowering plant and it means so much more. She doesn’t have the out-sized expectations that result from a crappy marriage, and I relish in the opportunity to let her know in a small way that she’s my world.

    Seems like I’ve gotten a little long-winded. Sorry! I’m pretty passionate on the topic of marriage 🙂 Well done!

    • Gira says:

      Mr BGM – your honest & heartfelt post made me tear up a little! Thank you for sharing and best wishes to you for a happy marriage for the rest of your days!

      • Thanks Gira 🙂

        It’s taken an affair, a divorce, re-marrying each other, and now 6 years of hard work to get where we are, but I can’t imagine life any other way.

        • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

          I’m with Gira–your comment is so very sweet and touching. I think you have such an inspiring story and message. I love that you’re blogging about it–it’s just so cool to read. Thank you for commenting :)!

  15. I totally agree, but there is one thing I DO love about V-day: the day after, when all the chocolate is on sale, haha. But seriously folks. You have a very inspiring marriage! Thanks for sharing both the ups and the downs.

  16. Great tips! I don’t like to celebrate Valentine’s Day either (not even when I was in a relationship) because it felt forced. You shouldn’t have to use a holiday to show your love and appreciation for your partner.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you! Totally agree with you–there’s nothing romantic about feeling forced to demonstrate your love 🙂

  17. Michelle says:

    We don’t ever celebrate Valentine’s Day with material gifts. Instead, I prefer a yummy dinner at home!

  18. Yeah, we don’t normally go out. Our in-laws offered to watch our daughter that day so we may go out to lunch, but we have a surplus in our date fund and a few gift cards so I’m OK with it. I’d rather get take out and eat it at home though.

  19. What a great post! I can’t remember the last time we celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s a lot of little things that make my connection with my wife strong. The kiss before I leave for work. The I love you before we go to bed. No over priced dinner can replace these things.

  20. My husband works 24-hour shifts and so I’m used to him not being around for holidays. Our first year of marriage, he had to work on Valentine’s Day and I was pretty bummed about it, but we ended up going out on the day before, Feb 13. It was wonderful! Nobody was out! We had the restaurant pretty much to ourselves. We just had such a great time and we weren’t all crowded with the other couples. It was a nice way to celebrate and save money on pre-fixed menus. we haven’t celebrated on valentine’s day since

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Going out the day before or after is probably a great idea–good to be out of the madness! It does seem like people tend not to celebrate V-day as their relationship ages.

  21. I spent one Valentine’s Day in New Zealand. It’s hard to understand what “Hallmark Holiday” really means until you’ve seen what it looks like from the other side. As in, it’s so ingrained in what we see, do and experience that it’s hard to comprehend it a different way. In NZ, it’s not a thing. You basically have to be IN a Hallmark store to notice. There are a few things in grocery stores, but more like one shelf-end display and that’s it, not an entire aisle plus junk at the tills.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      That’s an interesting perspective to have! The Hallmarky-ness does seem to be pervasive… and almost all of the stuff is disposable and intended to just be thrown out at the end of the holiday.

  22. Surely homegrown celebrations can fit into a frugal budget. I can make a quiche with smoked cheddar for less than one drink at a restaurant. Celebrations add spark to life. I would not want to give them up.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Oh absolutely! I’m not an advocate for giving up celebrations–I’m just not a fan of the proscribed materialism of V-day. But a frugal celebration (especially with some delicious-sounding quiche)? Count me in 🙂

  23. Mary says:

    We have been married 33 years . We have weathered many storms, but respect for each other has gotten us through most of those.

    I would think Frugal Hound has added to your relationship as well. 🙂 BTW: does she howl in her sleep?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Congratulations on 33 years! That’s wonderful and inspiring! Respect for each other is so crucial and is something we’ve really honed in the last few years.

      You are completely right–Frugal Hound has enriched our relationship in so many ways. We’re so thankful to have her :). And, she doesn’t exactly howl in her sleep, but she makes little noises–soft barks and grunts–which we’ve termed “sleep barking.” It’s pretty cute (except when it’s at 4am 😉 ).

  24. This MIGHT not have had the effect you intended, but I just ordered Valentine cards to mail out in lieu of the Christmas cards that never did.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hahah–I think that’s awesome! I love sending holiday cards out, and Valentine’s is as good a time as any 🙂

  25. Kim says:

    I have always hated Valentine’s Day ever since high school when the roses and balloons started showing up from all the puppy love boyfriends. I hope they don’t allow that in this day and age. Jim used to buy gifts for me because he likes gifts and he likes to give them, one of the reasons we ended up in debt. I don’t like them and am probably not as nice as I should be if I receive one. He has finally learned that I don’t appreciate them and would rather save our money to buy rentals or go on trips. We did go out for my birthday and spent a total of 72 cents plus a gift card someone gave us for Christmas. That is the kind of holiday I most appreciate!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m with you, I’d much rather save the money and travel or buy real estate! You’re a gal after my own heart :). And I’m loving your 72 cent birthday–that’s awesome!

  26. Love this post – like I love the hubby who knows NOT to buy me anything for Valentine’s Day. He used to splurge on big vases filled with flowers that were delivered to my office, but that was years ago. I think it’s probably more significant to someone who’s never received a special delivery like that before. The feelings of “love and/or joy” was pretty short lived. And then, it was kind of annoying when everyone stopped in my office to admire them.

    One of my current projects is figuring out a cute, cheap alternative to Valentine’s Day cards for the little ones to pass out at school (it’s hard to explain to a four year old why he should be ignoring the status quo and rejecting consumerism).

  27. Kathleen says:

    My husband and I have been married for 16 1/2 years, together for 19 1/2, and we are not out of our thirties yet. For Valentine’s Day we usually are very low key, we may have lunch out, but not on February 14th, we may go to a matinee or we may just go for a walk. I’m the frugal one and he is becoming more frugal. Which is awesome.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Many congrats on your long-lived relationship–that’s wonderful! Lunch out is a good idea–cheaper than dinner but still a treat. And, way to go on bringing your husband over to the frugal side :)!

  28. Tarynkay says:

    I love Valentine’s Day! My parents always gave us each a little note and some candy and we would all eat a special breakfast (at home) together.

    I spent a lot of time in food service, so we never go out on Valentines Day. Every restaurant I worked at made up the food for Valentines WAY in advance- you are just not getting the best a restaurant has to offer that day. And it is always really crowded.

    I would say that my husband and I have a very strong marriage- we have been married 14 years and have been through quite a lot together. It is still nice to have days on the calendar when we remember to pause and reflect on our love and express our gratitude for each other. This has been especially true with a three year old. It is really easy to get caught up in the business of life. We don’t usually buy each other stuff, but we do usually make each other Valentines Day cards and we have a nice dinner in. Sort of like how it should always be Christmas in our hearts, but celebrating Christmas is still really wonderful. I guess I just like holidays and celebrating a lot, that’s all. I also like Valentines as a time to tell other people that we love and appreciate them.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Aha–I KNEW the food was bad on Valentine’s Day ;)! I do enjoy holidays too, I’m just not a fan of the consumerism that seems to engulf V-day. But your plan for homemade cards and a quiet dinner together sounds pretty perfect to me. And, you make a good point that Valentine’s Day is a nice opportunity to send love to people outside of just our partners.

  29. Too zesty says:

    My husband and I used to go out to dinner for valentines day because v day was the anniversary of our first real date. We snuck pb&j sandwiches into the movies for our first valentines day. The movie was terrible but the first date was awesome. Now that we have a wedding anniversary we don’t do valentines anymore. Also, he reads yur blog so… If you’re reading this handsome husband, I love you!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha, that’s awesome. Glad to hear you and your husband have the same reading material–shared interests are a good thing (of course I might be a bit biased since you’re both reading Frugalwoods… 😉 ). I love that you snuck sandwiches into a movie theater–that’s pretty hilarious.

  30. brookst says:

    Not a celebrator of Valentine’s Day. My daughter’s birthday is the day after VD so I always get a beautiful heart shaped cake for half price and use my artistic talent to redecorate the top to be a birthday cake. Besides Valentines Day I never understood the tradition of engagement rings. Then I saw an eye opening piece on youtube about why engagement rings are a scam invented by DeBeers diamond company and it solidified my feelings against the practice. I must just be anti-establishment because when I got married I was told I needed to buy a cake so people could take pictures of us cutting it. I said there will be lots of picture opportunities and left out the cake no one eats. It’s not just about money that I have discarded these norms it is because they are consumer based and only put money in corporations pocket and the opposite is I do something personal and thoughtful in their place. Make a romantic dinner at home. Write a romantic story starring me and my guy. That story is still tucked away in his drawer years later unlike a store bought card or expensive gift.

    • I love the idea of writing a story about yourselves – so romantically unique!

      • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

        I like how you roll, brookst! Nice going on the discount heart cake–that’s a great strategy. I totally agree with you on the personal and thoughtful gestures. They’re so much more meaningful and really are the foundations of a loving relationship. I agree with Harmony, writing a story is such a wonderful idea!

  31. Nikki Frugal says:

    MK and I don’t celebrate Valentines day. We do get something for Lacey that’s practical (meaning not candy or a stuffed animal!). But for each other we don’t see the point. Do we really need a certain day of the year set aside to celebrate the fact we love each other? or can we keep our focus and meet our financial/life goals every day of the year.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I like the idea of a practical gift for a kid on Valentine’s Day. That seems like a nice way to celebrate! And I agree with you–better to stay focused on each other and your goals all year long 🙂

  32. I think I have finally weaned Mrs. RoG off of wanting to go out for V day. We rarely (never?) actually go out for v day, for the reasons you mention. It’s more expensive (jacked up prix fixe menus anywhere fancier than McD’s), more crowded (impossible to get a reservation between 5:30 pm and 9:30 pm), and almost guaranteed to be a less pleasant evening of dining out than virtually any other day of the year (unless you like slow service and exhausted servers rushing your table so they can flip it for the next customer).

    I will concede to the fake ass holiday that V day is and get a $3-4 bouquet of non-roses from Aldi or the grocery store. Having flowers on the table for a week or two in the middle of winter when everything is brown and dead outside is nice. And it’s just once a year (well, sometimes for the anniversary too if I can fit another $3-4 of flowers into my budget 😉 .

    V day, and how you celebrate it should be approximately 0.00000000003% of a factor in how strong your marriage is. Or just round that down to zero and call it a day.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Fresh flowers (especially of the non-rose varietal) are indeed quite nice. I’m shocked at your profligate spending of potentially $8/year though ;). What is this world coming to?

      Agreed on rounding down to zero. Mr. FW just brought over a dried fig for me to eat, which was a vastly more thoughtful gesture than V-day in my book.

  33. Tawcan says:

    What a great post! Agree that you can’t put your marriage on auto-pilot. Marriage is something you have to work on every day. Sure arguments will happen here and there but the most important thing is that you learn from the arguments, you resolve the differences, and still be friends with each other.

  34. Usually we do a special breakfast together, like pancakes (usually he’s off before I get up). If we get a chance, we try to use a gift card to go out for a fancy dinner (on a night around Valentine’s Day, but not on it), or get a fancy takeout meal at home, or cook something off the charts. So, we celebrate with food.

    We’ve always discussed big life issues together and little ones too and I think always being there for each other is what makes us grow stronger. We had friends living with us for a while and I remember one of them complaining that we never fight, we just talk things through.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Yum, I’m always a proponent of celebrating with food :). We’ll probably make pancakes or similar on V-day as well! It’s amazing how “fighting” just sort of dissipates when you have good, open lines of communication. We discuss things and have intense conversations, but we don’t fight in the traditional sense. It’s nice, isn’t it!

  35. Linda says:

    Totally agree with you, (re anti-Valentine’s Day). It’s worked for us – with 34years of happy marriage.:) Thank you both for your AWESOME, inspiring, exquisitely-written posts. How you find ‘the will’ to put in all that effort so often is amazing. We really appreciate your work!! (Linda from Australia).

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Many congratulations on 34 years of marriage! That’s marvelous and inspiring! Thank you so much for your very kind words–I really appreciate that. Makes me feel so happy to know that people enjoy reading our stuff. Truly, thank you and thank you for reading :)!

  36. FrugalCat says:

    OK, Mr. Cat does buy flowers. But he buys a flowering plant(Orchid, about $12) on which the blooms last for months. After that, we put it outside in one of our trees and it reblooms again and again. If we have the urge for Valentine themed merchandise we purchase it on clearance after the holiday.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      A flowering orchid sounds like a great idea–a beautiful reminder out there in your garden! And, buying on clearance afterwards is a fabulous frugal tactic 🙂

  37. Well I don’t have an official valentine so no, but I have had friends cook dinner at their house so something like that is fun. I think like new year’s eve, people place such high expectations on ONE day. My favorite are the girls posting pics of teddy bears, flowers, chocolates, etc. on FB and then bragging, “my hubby/bf is the most bestest thing EV-AH!” To me that reads: “somebody loves me…thank god! And I need all of you to know that!” 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hahah–yes! Right there with you on those posts. Oh man, just not my thing. Although I like the Boston accent of “EV-AH”!

  38. Revanche says:

    Do we celebrate a fake holiday? Absolutely not.
    I used to take this day as a chance to spend time with my single friends, because they cared about it and I was in a LD relationship but both didn’t care about it and was not going to spend ridiculous money on a ridiculous “holiday”.
    Besides, I do enough obnoxious bragging about my wonderful PiC (partner in crime husband) on a daily basis. One day can’t possibly hold all of the bragging 😉
    Speaking of which, I was working on a bragging post… you beat me to the no-to-Valentine’s day post 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I do like to brag on Mr. FW a bit, it’s true :). I just can’t help myself, he’s one great dude! You should totally publish a bragging, no-V-Day post, I love hearing everyone’s stories and experiences :).

  39. I just found your blog through Frugal Babe and am loving it so far! I completely agree with this post, however I’m in a very new relationship this year and just want to celebrate as much as possible (but also as frugally as possible). So my boyfriend and I have decided to cook a nice meal together (nicer than usual), make homemade ice cream and watch a movie at home 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So glad you found us–thanks for reading and saying hi :)! I’m with you on enjoying frugal celebrations! Your plan to cook at home sounds divine to me.

  40. FWs,

    Good stuff. I couldn’t agree more. I personally don’t really care for V-Day at all, but my significant other does attach some feelings to it. But we generally don’t go out on the day. I don’t think it’s the day that matters so much, but rather the feelings and experiences you’re sharing with one another. If you need a consumerist holiday to bring you guys together, you’re in trouble.

    That’s a great checklist there. I’m lucky in that I also have a pretty deep connection with my partner and we communicate/spend time with each other quite a bit. We discuss our goals, wants, needs, frustrations, personal aspirations, and things we’re grateful for pretty routinely.

    I think you guys are on track for a long and healthy relationship!

    Best regards.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Thank you! I think you and Claudia are on track too :). It’s wonderful to have someone you can truly connect with and share your aspirations and dreams with. It’s a great way to go through life!

  41. As my mom always said – Nothing compensates for clear communication! My wife already told me what she wants for Vday, and it has a price tag on it, but I’ll let it slide this year.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      So true about clear communication–there is just no substitute! And hey, as long as you and your wife are on the same page, it’s all good.

  42. Bmo88 says:

    I like a lot of your posts, but I disagree with you on this one to some extent. Mr. Bmo and I have been together almost 12 years, married almost 2 years. I am proud to say we have and will continue to celebrate every Valentine’s Day together. Why? Because we take every chance we get to celebrate our relationship. Holiday or not.

    By celebrate I mean we make each other a homemade card, write thoughtful, sweet messages and exchange them. I have every card he has made me. I even occasionally read them all. He routinely buys me a small box of chocolates (.99) and I buy him his favorite that, haribo candies. So in total, we spend $2 in treats and whatever a few pieces of craft paper cost that are lying around the house.

    I think it’s fine to either celebrate the day or not. It’s a couples choice if they do it and how they do it. I am all about being frugal, but I don’t judge or think it’s stupid for others to celebrate in their own way.

    As long as their relationship is healthy and full of love, who cares how they celebrate or when? I don’t think we are any less mature or unsure of our relationship for celebrating Valentine’s. We do it in a way that we enjoy.

    So while I don’t personally spend a lot of money on Valentine’s, I do take part in the sentiment, unshamefully.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I’m all about celebrating our love and our relationship! Totally agree with you there. I’m just not down with the consumerism of Valentine’s Day, but the sentiment is definitely important 🙂

  43. When I used to work in the UK corporate world it was the smirking that got me on St Valentine’s Day. The girls in our dept who got the big bunches of roses delivered to them at the office would parade them around and then smirk at those of us who did not have the good fortune to have such a romantic boyfriend.

    The flowers eventually withered as did the majority of the relationships. Give me a rock solid relationship any day 🙂

    Linda xx

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Ugh, the smirking is definitely not appreciated! Very poetic: “the flowers eventually withered as did the majority of the relationships”… sigh, you’re so right 🙂

  44. I thoroughly enjoyed this post and found myself nodding my head in agreement the entire time reading it. We also don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. We have have the first couple years we dated, but I honestly don’t remember….

  45. So…..you’re not going to get your hubby a teddy bear holding a heart and a balloon and some candy?
    J/K Yeah, I don’t really get V-day either. I would never try to go out on the holiday- it’s the second busiest restaurant day of the year behind Thanksgiving! Sounds like more of a hassle than a treat to me. I’m getting my husband nothing because we don’t really need anything. He usually gets me a card because he’s cheesy like that.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Haha–yes, that’s exactly what I’m getting Mr. FW, how’d you know ;)! A cheesy card is nice–we often homemake them for each other, which is pretty cute I must say.

  46. We don’t spend money on each other in general unless all things financial are in order (guilty feelings making us right 🙂 In fact, we just got back from our honeymoon two and a half years late. (It was glorious). I think the best and most expensive thing we have done on valentines day is we went to Italy. By going to Italy I mean I picked up a DVD copy of Rick Steve’s tours of Italy, a bottle of lemoncello, and we spent a nice day off touring the Italian countryside from the couch. We usually only get one day off together per week, so just taking the time together is special enough in itself. Thanks for the great post 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I like your “going to Italy” date, that’s awesome! Rick Steves is great too–he cracks me up, but the dude knows his travel. Glad you went on a honeymoon and that it was glorious 🙂

  47. I did see a big ass $65 stuffed bear at Rite Aid yesterday that I think Mr. FW might like. 😉 Hubby and I are going to go work out together and then get a burger with the babies. We’re looking forward to it after switching to tons of vegetarian meals. It’s been a tough transition but very exciting to see progress too.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Bahahah–that bear would be perfect for Mr. FW! They always have gigantic bears at Costco and I always wonder who buys those things… I mean, they’re huge! Sounds like you have a lovely V-day planned. I know what you mean about the meat–in the rare instances when we do eat it, it’s such a treat/shock :)!

  48. CBuggle says:

    My birthday is on Velantine’s day and it’s really awkward. It’s not possible to go out to dinner without joining the charade. I am single which makes it even more awkward. I don’t like to make a big deal out of any holiday, including Christmas, because I think it is all very fake, and makes some people complacent about showing real affection and love during the rest of the year.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Ooo I feel your pain on the birthday conundrum. But hey, you could get discount chocolates right after your b-day 🙂

  49. I love working out with my boyfriend. Other favorite activities are streaming netflix and using our citibikes to check out new parts of the city. Our biggest non-frugal habit is ordering seamless. We need to make it cooking together- but the vegetarian/meat eater combo makes it a bit of a challenge.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Working out is such a great hobby to share! And, I’m super impressed that you bike in NYC–that’s awesome.

  50. MandalayVA says:

    Yes, Mr. Mandalay gets me flowers, a pretty little bouquet that is decidedly not red roses and therefore lasts for more than two days. We used to do dinner out, but we’d do it the week before or the week after. This year I’m going to talk him out of it. My name for V-day for a long time has been “B***h I Gotta Man” Day because it’s all about young stupid girls parading red roses, stuffed bears and/or jewelry.

    To brookst above who claims that engagement rings are an invention of DeBeers, that’s not true. Engagement/betrothal rings have been around for hundreds of years. What DeBeers DID start was the idea that one had to cough up two months’ salary for a huge flashy diamond. I have a sapphire engagement ring (sapphire is both of our birthstones) that I love dearly.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Love your name for V-day, that’s perfect ;)! And, good to know re. DeBeers–fascinating and terrifying all at once. Sapphires are beautiful, in my opinion 🙂

  51. Don’t miss the silly school Valentine’s stuff at all. (Joys of homeschooling!)

    The Alchemist and I did the eating-out thing once and said never again. Like you, it was near the beginning of our marriage. I think when we were dating we did small gifts here and there. They obviously made a huge impression on my memory!

    This year we’ll be celebrating because it will be my last day of working for the Man – unless (and I give it 50/50 odds) they tell me to leave upon giving notice, which I’m giving this Sunday.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Hooray, David! That’s awesome! Congrats on leaving your job–woohoo! Definitely worthy of celebration 🙂

  52. Okay … I admit … one year I took boxes of See’s chocolates to the kids’ schools and had them delivered to them. The schools do Valentine-grams and the popular kids end up with oodles of ‘grams’. My kids loved their chocolate boxes. I think it especially spoke my daughter’s ‘love language’. This year, since Valentine’s day is on a Saturday, I will take them to See’s and let them pick their favorites. We do this occasionally throughout the year as a special treat.
    As for the hubby and I, there was a time when gifts could not be in the equation, that he made me homemade cards with pictures and all! I love them so much that he continues to do just that! I have kept every one!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I feel like I’d be more inclined to celebrate with kids too. I can definitely see the fun in the holiday for them! Love the sound of your homemade cards–so sweet 🙂

  53. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Relationships and money are such a big topic – entire blogs are based around that alone (and thousands of books). I can relate to many of the things you mentioned. My wife hates Valentine’s Day but we still exchange cards (we are big fans of cards – not frugal haha) and spend a tiny bit of money on the holiday.

  54. Hannah says:

    Yesterday, my husband asked if he gave me flowers often enough, and I told him that I wanted to try cilantro this year. He was talking about gifts, and I was talking about gardens- Good communication is obviously a core tenant of our marriage too. In my defense, I would prefer a fresh bunch of cilantro to a fresh bunch of roses.

    That being said, we always celebrate Valentine’s Day- it’s our anniversary. We buy heart shaped marshmallows (not even on Clearance) and roast them over candlelight (since we don’t have a bon fire pit), and we make s’mores. We also say thing like “I love you s’more”, and “My heart is on fire for you.” Eating s’mores is our tradition since they were one of the desserts at our wedding, and it’s just like the frozen cake tradition except it doesn’t involve eating crappy frozen pastry. If I remember to, I will also print out some pictures to hang up while my husband is at work. That would be an awesome Valentine’s/Anniversary present 🙂

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Cilantro! That’s hilarious and awesome. I’d prefer cilantro over flowers too!

      Your s’mores tradition is beyond adorable 🙂

  55. We celebrate it minimally, we don’t go out to dinner, we stay in for dinner. We give small meaningful gifts and thoughtful handwritten cards. But you already knew that, since buying big expensive gifts shouldn’t be in a PF bloggers budget. By the way I like all the chocolates you mentioned.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      A thoughtful, handwritten card is a wonderful thing. I really appreciate the cards and letters that Mr. FW has made for me other the years. And yes to chocolates 🙂

  56. We don’t celebrate Valentine’s day either and for our first wedding anniversary this summer we have thought about going on a fun adventure together instead of the usual presents/flowers route. The best part about V-day is the day after when all the chocolate is on sale!

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I think a fun adventure sounds like a great idea! We’ve preferred taking trips in lieu of Christmas, b-day, etc gifts. More fun to share an experience together in my opinion. Hooray for sale chocolate ;)!

  57. MEL810 says:

    IF we go out to eat on VD, (the acronym says something about the ‘holiday’ folks) we usually go to the local pho place that is less than six blocks from our condo . It is cheap, filling and nutritious and the prices are the same on VD as any other day.
    We do dollar store 2/1.00 cards and sometimes some candy but that is it. No big whoop!

  58. Fig says:

    Love this post! I really am not a fan of Valentine’s Day and don’t have any big plans to celebrate it with my boyfriend. I love him and all but we show each other that every day rather than spending a ton on one day because someone told us to.

  59. We used to do all the “supposed ta’s”. As soon as we stopped, our marriage improved by leaps and bounds. The stresses and pressures of gift giving were ridiculous. What were they for but to impress other people? A lighter load leads to happier people. Happier people lead tor a happier marriage. Win Win ~ PLUS, it saves a LOT of moola, which is yet ANOTHER burden lifted. Love this post. Intelligent and entertaining, as always! 🙂

  60. Wendy says:

    The first time my now husband and I celebrated Valentine’s Day I was bound to the bathroom with a urinary tract infection. I assure you, that also created a nice bond… Another one was celebrated with a stomach bug, thus again being confined to the bathroom, and another one was with a bad case of the flu… Luckily we never plan special activities or presents… So we are now heading towards V-Day nº 13 together, without any plans, once again…

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Being sick together really adds a whole new layer of respect to a relationship, doesn’t it :). Hopefully you’l be healthy this year!

  61. I get where you’re coming from, and love should never feel forced. But my wife and I like to celebrate Valentine’s Day (or Saint Frugaltine’s Day as we’re now calling it). We have gone out sometimes in the past (not always on the exact day), but more often we stay in for a special dinner together, with handmade cards and a movie (perhaps borrowed from the library). Certainly holidays shouldn’t be the only time you show your affection for your partner, but that doesn’t mean we have to avoid the holidays or spend a fortune on them.

  62. Jessica says:

    We have been married for nine years and I can’t remember ever celebrating Valentine’s Day. I feel like I’ve maybe received flowers and I know I’ve made him a card or two, but that’s pretty much it. We tend to agree with you that it’s more important to demonstrate our love year round.

    I also love how you outlined the ups and downs with your own marriage. We’ve definitely experienced some of the same and could probably do better. Communication is definitely key, and even if you’re with someone all the time it can be hard to communicate touch-y feel-y things. Your outline is a fantastic approach.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      Totally agree on demonstrating love year round. From what I’ve heard and seen, every marriage has ups and downs and I think it’s valuable to share experiences with other couples.

      Communication is always the hardest for us too and even though we’ve honed our skills over the years, like you said, we can always do better. I think of marriage as a wonderful, exciting, lifelong work in progress :).

  63. Outstanding! I really like how you’re able to convey the view that there are more important aspects to a relationship than how much money people spend on gifts for each other. Plus, the reality is that Valentine’s Day really is a big commercial event.

    Now, if two people simply enjoy the day and spend on each other without pressure, that’s cool too! I can totally see that. That being said, a relationship that is fundamentally sound doesn’t require people to spend lot of money on that particular day in order to survive.

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I completely agree! I wouldn’t want to feel like I had to buy trinkets for Mr. FW in order to preserve our marriage ;). Thanks so much for stopping by!

  64. Caroline says:

    We went out for precisely 1 V day, as you so rightly said, in the early months of our relationship. It was a total and complete disaster. I was very sick, I had really bad flu that had – I later found – morphed into a chest infection. London in February (we lived there then) is cold and not great to be out in if you are sick. The restaurant was terrible, shocking service, wrong food brought and then the waiter argued that the lasagne (charred outside, chilly centre) was in fact a cannelloni and why was DH being a dick? We were seated under a freezing air vent… it was a nightmare of epic proportions. Since then we take it in turns to cook a really special meal at home, and have it with good wine / bubbly. That’s it. No flowers or any other thing on the day, total waste of money and cynical marketing ploy, and at nearly 11 years married, we have our routine waxed… what we DO go out for is our anniversary, 25th February. Here in the Southern Hemisphere it’s summer and gorgeous and that’s where we got married, so it works out nicely.

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