The cost of a romantic restaurant dinner for two can be a bit daunting, especially if you’ve only just caught your breath after holding it for all 765 days of January! So why not create that special atmosphere at home? In the Southern Hemisphere, we’re lucky enough to have summer Februaries, so we can organise our very own romantic dinner under the stars! Read on for Simply Sparkles‘ great ideas for the month of love!
What if it’s cloudy, or the wind is up? No candles then, my friend! This was a difficult lesson for me to learn when we moved to the Cape. I LOVE candles for creating romantic atmosphere. My husband proposed to me in a gorgeous outdoor restaurant where they had over 300 candles in the garden (you read that right – it helped that they made candles too).
In the Cape, it would be inconceivable. 300 candles is more likely to make you the epicentre of this year’s out-of-control bush fire than a great romantic.
I own obscene numbers of pretty lanterns now, in an attempt to beat the Cape Doctor winds, but there are times when even lighting candles is just too much work. Enter my new obsession (drum roll please) … fairy lights!
You see, you just can’t do a romantic dinner without the right atmosphere, and the right atmosphere, dear reader, involves lights. Starlight, moonlight, fairy lights, candle light – it’s ALL about the lights. Flowers next, and pretty crockery, etc, but lights are critical. There are songs about this. For a reason.
Lights make a small space look inviting, and a plain wooden table or roof beam look like something truly special. Lights improve the look of everything else: the food, the flowers, the silverware. Everything glows and sparkles happily when you have the right lighting.
A word to the wise: YOU look more inviting too, when the lighting is right. A movement sensor spotlight or a fluorescent bulb over the garden might be practical, but it is horrible for your smouldering romantic gaze, and will make fresh flowers look like cheap plastic. Romance is never particularly practical. Valentine’s day requires some finesse. And fairy lights.
a romantic night at the movies (outdoors)
Why not hire or borrow a projector (we can help with that!) and hang up a white sheet tightly across a piece of string to create your very own outdoor movie theatre? Drag your mattress outside, or use a picnic blanket or inflatable camping mattress, throw pretty cushions all over it, and you can drape yourself fetchingly next to the champagne bucket and get cozy with a great film or series.
Make easy finger food like sliders or wraps or nice things in little bowls on a tray or wooden board, to dip and feed your beloved, so that you don’t have to keep pausing the film and dashing inside to check the oven or get fresh supplies. An ice bucket or champagne cooler similarly keeps the drinks cold and close by. If you don’t have one, take a pretty salad bowl and use that. The only real requirements for an ice bucket is that is is clean and attractive – no, the plastic mop bucket will NOT do!
romantic silver service at home
Get out the lovely table linen, the special wine glasses, the candlesticks (or fairy lights), the lovely roses in glass vases, and serve up that gorgeous 3, 4, 6, 12! course dinner that would make your grandmama’s fictional butler proud!
It’s not too difficult to achieve if you’re a reasonable cook and do some forward planning. If you are not a reasonable cook, cheat. Ask a nice restaurant for a takeaways or head to Woolies for ready-made. If it’s good quality, served attractively (NOT in the box!) then you can have your fabulous cake and eat it without breaking a sweat.
I strongly suggest something you have made before and feel pretty confident about. Unless you like being sweaty when you romance someone, this might not be the time to experiment too wildly. Of course, if you have been married for millions of years like me, then go ahead and experiment because you’ll both enjoy the change and have a good laugh at the disasters (it’s a relief to get past the frantically impressing each other phase).
If you don’t know each other very well, your beloved will hopefully be impressed by all the trouble you’ve gone to and what a marvellous cook you are, or will be too full, or too polite, to protest much if you aren’t. When all else fails, you can’t go too far wrong with some advice I got from a cookbook once: if your dinner burns: dim the lights, put on a candle, pour LOTS of wine, and give the dish an impossible French name. (But you see, first the lights!
romantic exotic moroccan picnic for two
Another fun take on the outdoor dinner, is a more casual and colourful moroccan picnic. Take a carpet or pretty blanket and your coffee table outside, or put a suitable piece of wood on bricks – you basically want a low table. Put cushions down instead of chairs, get lots of pretty tea lights, lanterns, fairy lights etc. strung overhead on string with pretty stands or from trees, or hang a pretty patterned cloth from some simply wooden poles to create a canopy, and voila! You have transported your love on a magic carpet ride, for MUCH less than the price of a genie’s lamp.
You’ll need strong colours – pinks, reds, turquoises, etc. and colourful flowers like bougainvillea in oranges, pinks and yellows, to get the mood going. Coloured glass is a great way to go: for drinks and vases. If you don’t have any, then you can cheat with old glass jam jars painted with gold craft paint in pretty patterns.
Freeze edible flowers like hibiscus or rose petals in ice cubes to put in your drinks, and use rose geranium or rose water infusions in your food for a delightful mood. A moroccan tagine or other lovely spiced dishes you can eat with your fingers would also set the tone nicely. You can go the whole hog and feed each other by hand, just have a finger bowl and napkins close!
a romantic dinner dance under the stars
Nothing says ‘romance’ quite like a dancing (under pretty lights). I read somewhere that all a woman wants is a man who can dance and make her laugh, and I was lucky enough to get that, as it was certainly what I wanted.
You don’t need much to get your date swooning in your arms, not even all that much dancing skill. All you need is a relatively flat surface: grass, your deck, your kitchen tiles, and some nice music and atmospheric lighting.
Now is not the time to confess your love for death metal, but you don’t have to go all Celine Dion either if it will make you ill. Just something that keeps it light and lovely. There are Spotify playlist suggestions if you get lost, or phone a friend. You don’t have a good sound system and your phone sounds all tinny? No problem – you can hire a sound system too!
It’s all quite simple, really. Mark off an area with a canopy of pretty lights, or surround it with lanterns and candles. Eat, drink something fabulous, and then offer your date your hand and ask him/her to dance. Hold them lightly (sweaty bumping and grinding is NOT romantic, and neither is heading straight for a bum grab) and if you can sway more or less to the beat, you’re well on your way. Stepping out and doing a twirl, and you’re up to Next Level. Only do the tip and dip if you are 100% sure you can hold your partner and get them back up again, or you are 100% sure they can do advanced yoga or gymnastics and gracefully end in a backflip. Test your abilities with a willing (and forgiving) sibling or friend if necessary.
Chat to us if you’d like more advice and ideas on creating an atmosphere that simply sparkles. We have a wide range of romantic lights for hire, and pretty stands to help you create that magical canopy or dance area. Ask about our new drinks trolley and our pretty ice/ champagne buckets, or show us your Pinterest dream board and we’ll see what we can do help you create a truly romantic Valentine’s Day within your budget.