Oftentimes, a thoughtful gift trumps an expensive gift. And for those of us who like surprises, gifts get that extra oomph when they're delivered unexpectedly. Consider these gift-giving tips to help make revealing a surprise to your spouse, partner, or other loved one as meaningful as possible. You'll find tips on personalizing the surprise, unique considerations, and ideas for the big reveal.
Remember the Surprise Isn't About You
Don't pick a weekend away at a destination or setting that you love but your partner could care less about. Even if you don't enjoy something like opera or basketball, going to a museum, fishing or tending to your succulent collection, if that is what your loved one likes to do, the surprise will be your willingness to share their beloved activity with them. Be willing to go outside your own comfort zone.
Tune Into Your Partner's Preferences
Keep your ears perked for statements like, "X is my favorite, or "I wish I could do X." If what they've been coveting is within your budget and accessible to the both of you, pursue that thing or experience with confidence. You could also let your partner's love language inform the kind of surprise you plan. Dr. Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages, outlines the different ways people prefer to give and receive love. For example, if your significant other's love language is acts of service, you might consider surprising your partner by walking the dog, doing the grocery shopping, and cooking dinner one weekend–or anything that might eliminate a few things on their usual to-do list.
For Partners Who Hate Surprises, Offer Hints
Without revealing everything, you can drop hints at your surprise so you don't catch partners who aren't fans of surprises off-guard. For example, if you want to surprise your partner with tough-to-snag dinner reservations at that new restaurant in town, weave into the conversation when they should be ready for dinner on Friday night and what the recommended dress code is like. That way, all won't be revealed at once, and your partner will have an idea of what to expect.
Think Twice About Surprise Gifting a Pet
They may be cute, but a dog or cat (puppy, kitten, or otherwise) is a big responsibility. Pets requires time, effort, and finances to keep up with ownership. Unless your surprise giftee has "expressed sustained interest in owning one, and the ability to care for it responsibly," the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPTA) recommends against gifting a pet as a gift. If you choose to move forward, ASPTA also suggests, "We also recommend that pets be obtained from animal shelters, rescue organizations, friends, family or responsible breeders—not from places where the source of the animal is unknown or untrusted."
Choose an Arbitrary Day
Choosing milestone days to surprise your partner like anniversaries and birthdays, and holidays will always be appreciated. However, choosing a non-obvious day to surprise your significant other is unexpected and could end up being the highlight of your partner's otherwise status quo week. Surprise your loved one when they may least expect it, such as before or after a random work day, or a lazy Saturday afternoon.
Think Through the Details
Don't surprise your spouse with a weekend or night away and then expect them to arrange for child or pet care, for example. Put in the effort to handle the details, including making sure that your surprise plans don't interfere with plans already on the books. Work around this by double checking calendars, or working a casual, "Do we have anything planned for X weekend?" into conversation.
Get Other Loved Ones Involved
Enlist the help of friends and family to pull off the surprise gift, whether it be by having them whisk your loved one away from the house for an afternoon so you can get things set up at home or wherever you plan to present your surprise. Or, maybe they are the surprise in itself, and if that's the case, be sure to get on the same page about your whereabouts (i.e. lock in a plausible alibi if your partner is beginning to catch on to sneaky activity) to avoid spoiling the surprise. If you and your partner share finances, ask a friend or family member to purchase the necessary items for the surprise and pay them back afterward to avoid a bank statement spoiler.
Involve Your Partner
Make the surprise interactive by creating a scavenger hunt with clues leading up to the reveal. The cool thing is you can scale it up or down, whether the scavenger hunt takes place around the home, or in multiple locations across town. Similarly, clues can involve something as simple as sticky notes, to various objects that eventually paint a clear picture of the surprise as your partner progresses through the scavenger hunt.
If a particularly fond memory was attached to a particular location, and it makes sense with the narrative of the surprise—a park, a restaurant, the scene of an embarrassing yet endearing moment—consider unveiling it at the same location. In thinking about the location, it's also helpful to determine how comfortable your partner is about drawing potential attention to themselves in public settings. Some people are all about public gestures, while others might be more comfortable in a semi-private or private setting.
Capture Their Reaction
Seal the memory of the day or event with a photo, or capture it on film. You can be as casual as having your smartphone ready to catch their reaction, or hire some pros to document the occasion so you can be as present as your partner. Companies like Flytographer give you access to local photographers around the world, from Maui to Tokyo, while bluetooth-connected photo printers, like Fujifilm's Instax mini smartphone printer, churn out prints in real-time.