The lovelorn, the unhappily-married and the cretinous holiday-hater might shudder at the newest push from restauranteurs, marketers and party-planners: Pre-Valentine’s Day.
Feb. 13 seems to be the most-cited date for a “Pre-Valentine’s Day” dinner, but this entire week has been fair game for “Pre-Valentine’s Day” events at restaurants, boutiques and hotels from California to London to Hong Kong.
Proponents say going out to eat on pre-Valentine’s Day carries all the romance of the actual day, but in a more sophisticated, relaxed way.
“More and more folks recognize that doing something thoughtful for your significant other the week of Valentine’s Day is okay, avoiding the crowds and waiting times associated with that day,” Kevin Joyce, proprietor of The Carlton in Pittsburgh (which is having a five course Pre-Valentine’s Day dinner on Feb. 13) told Quartz. “Many folks consider leaving dining out on Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve to the ‘amateurs’ who do not dine out on a more regular basis,” he said.
Convenience often works in pre-Valentine’s Day’s favor. Washington’s press seized on Barack and Michelle Obama’s dinner this weekend of “small Mexican plates” (perhaps one of the lesser romantic meals) as a “possible Pre-Valentine’s Day dinner” because they will be apart on the evening of the 14th when the president travels to California.
There’s also plenty of “Well, what else could we call an event in February?” promotion going on, including ladies’ primping sessions in the Bronx and, tonight, a discussion group called “BED Talks” (a twist on TED talks) in Boulder, Colorado.
Pre-Valentine’s Day celebrations in Hong Kong have a particularly practical bent this year—February 14 also falls this year on the same day as China’s Spring Lantern Festival, another celebration of coupledom (the overlap occurs only once in every 19 years). There’s extra pressure on Hong Kong singles to find a loved one before the 14th, sparking plenty of “Pre-Valentine’s” mixers and speed-dating events.
Meanwhile, maxed-out Hong Kong restaurants are taking canny advantage of the overlap. “On that that day you can hardly find a place for dinner or an event, so restaurants and hotels and agencies have been doing pre-Valentine’s Day” as well, a spokeswoman for Royal Matching, a Hong Kong dating service, told Quartz.
There’s practical, life-hacking appeal to pre-Valentine’s Day. Just as roses cost twice as much on Valentine’s Day—not because florists are greedy but because they pay increased shipping and labor costs to growers dealing with the rush of demand—dinner on Valentine’s Day itself is often more expensive because the high demand means ingredients and staff cost more.
So if you haven’t already, book yourself and your squeeze in for tonight or tomorrow night. One danger, lurks, though, in asking a date out for “pre-Valentine’s Day”—they might think you’re just being cheap.