'The bigger the card, the tackier your relationship': Etiquette expert William Hanson reveals how to celebrate Valentine's Day and emerge with your reputation unscathed


Ah, Valentine's Day. The time of year when civil courtship is needed more than ever is upon us once more. 

Although really kindness and romance should be practiced year round.

It's a day when many resort to fluffy hearts, glittery cards and hastily-purchased bouquets, but is this really the best way to celebrate in 2020?  

Here are my top tips for making sure you're marking the day correctly, without being too tacky or too backward.

The time of year when civil courtship is needed more than ever is upon us once more. (Stock image)


Some could argue celebrating Valentine's at all is fairly downmarket but many in relationships will now expect the day not to go unmarked. 

A card will suffice but remember the bigger the card, the tackier it - and your relationship - is.

Humorous cards are always preferable and more personal than those with saccharine wording such as 'to my loving husband' or 'to my wife and best friend'.

Turn up on time

If you're heading out on a date with someone new or with a partner make sure you are on time. It's the least you can do and tardiness is far from endearing.

Running late due to circumstances beyond your control? Let them know and give an honest and fair estimation of your time.

William Hanson (pictured) takes a look at how to make sure you're marking the day correctly

Don't lie and say you're en route when really you're still in a towel and at least 15 minutes from leaving the house.

Sharing your live location on your phone is a nice way to help manage their expectations and will allow you to focus on getting there and them to relax and stop texting you for an update every five minutes.

Be yourself

This is especially true when making a first impression. Remember they are dating the actual you, not the person you think they want.

Dress up but never arrive looking like someone you're not. It'll only backfire on you further down the relationship line when they realise you're less Michelin star and more lunch in your car.

Don't be tacky

Never refer to any occasion, at any point through the year, as 'date night', even ironically. Using such a hackneyed phrase isn't cool or romantic.

Try to make your own trends as a duo rather than copying what you read or see on social media.

Eat nicely and pick something easy to eat

Nothing is more off putting than watching someone chow down inelegantly.

If you're less lady and more tramp when you eat spaghetti then don't order it. Pick something simple like a steak or chicken with as little messy, smelly sauce as possible.

If you really fancy the messy, three patty burger or the spare ribs then go back tomorrow night and have them when you aren't trying to impress someone.

How to eat the aphrodisiacs

William Hanson reveals how to eat the aphrodisiacs this Valentine's Day. (Stock image)

ASPARAGUS: If served as a first course, rather than an accompanying vegetable, these are eaten with the hands and dipped into the hollandaise sauce. Brits will eat these with the left hand. You may double-dip in the sauce so long as it is your own serving.

OYSTERS: The best way to eat is to simply tip the contents into the mouth from the shell, having loosened them beforehand with a fork. An oyster fork is a Victorian middle-class invention and does nothing a normal fork cannot do. If an oyster fork is set, use it. If not, just use a normal small fork.

ROCKET: Rocket leaves are usually somewhere on a menu as an accompaniment to something. The trouble with these peppery leaves is they can get stuck easily in your teeth. Cut them up as small as you can and after each mouthful run your tongue along your teeth to check if you can feel something.

STRAWBERRIES: Should you get served a whole strawberry as a garnish then by all means pick this up from the leaves with your right hand and with one bite consume it, discarding the leaves on the side of the plate.

You can split the bill - even if it went well

I've had an epiphany and have changed my opinion in this.

It's now totally fine if you want to split the bill. I used to advise that whomever initiated the date paid in full and the bill for next date was covered by the other party. My former self would have said you only split the bill if it went terribly.

While there's nothing wrong with my former edict, in these days of equality, and opaque manifestations of gender, if both parties want to go halves, that's fine. I'll sleep easy.

Don't play games

Did your date go well? Great! Text or call them when it feels right: go with your instinct. Don't play games - leave them for the playground.

Going into a huddled quorum with colleagues at work, deciding when to text back is a waste of everyone's time.

We don't need it to be shared on social media

Your romantic evening is between you and the person you're sharing it with - not with your friends and followers online.

Live in the moment and don't worry about taking a photo of the food, your hand clutching theirs on your walk, or both of your snuggled on a sofa.

Nothing will kill the romance more than fretting over filters and getting in a tizz about tagging.

Be honest

Let's face it, not all dates are going to end with a marriage and 2.4 children, or even get close to it.

If something isn't working then both parties owe it to each other to be honest and grown-up about the situation rather than protracting things with vague allusions to further rendezvous

William Hanson is working with Scotch Beef to highlight the importance of ethically sourced, traceable meat.