Presence, not presents: Experiences are a new option for Valentine’s Day gifts

FARGO - Flowers, jewelry or chocolates may have been expected in the past, but this Valentine's Day more and more couples are opting for an experience together rather than purchasing traditional tokens of love."There's a depth to non-material gifts.
Experiences as gifts can turn into cherish memories. Thinkstock / Special to The Forum

FARGO - Flowers, jewelry or chocolates may have been expected in the past, but this Valentine's Day more and more couples are opting for an experience together rather than purchasing traditional tokens of love.

"There's a depth to non-material gifts. It's more thoughtful, it's more intentional and it's not something you can discard," says Randi Kay Olsen Heinold, a bodyworker, registered yoga teacher and self-care mentor. "It's a memory that can stay with you forever."

Heinold says technology creates ongoing distractions in our modern world.

"It's really important to choose the gift of presence over presents," she says.

In addition, Heinold says the commercialization of holidays such a Valentine's Day has turned off people to the idea of buying gifts.

"People are realizing there isn't a lot of depth to physical gifts," Heinold says. "Sometimes people are getting you something that is meaningful or thoughtful. It's just kind of like 'here ya go.' It may be something you like, but you might just get rid of it someday as well."

Experiences turn into cherished memories, Heinold says, and it's easier to figure out what would interest your partner than you would think.

"Often you just need to get out of your own head and just pay attention to the person that you are giving to," she says. "Especially around Valentine's day, there is such huge pressure to give certain types of gifts - like flowers, chocolates or jewelry."

As Heinold points out, sometimes we think "that's what I want!" when reality our partners usually don't need another material item.

Observe, notice and ask

When it comes to Valentine's gifting, Heinold instructs others to first observe their friend, family member or significant other.

"Ideas for gifts come when I tune into my husband or friends and ask myself, 'What do they truly need and how can I bring value to their life?' " she says.

Heinold says she works to constantly cultivate her relationship with her husband, Nate. Through presence and connection, they are able to mark special occasions like their anniversaries instead of just observing one specific day a year.

"Instead of leaving love notes for each other, we use the notebook," she says. "After we write a letter, we will leave it somewhere for the other person to find and it's become a

storage for our love over the years."

This "love notebook" is effective, Heinold says, because it speaks to her love language - a theory on how different personalities crave certain types of affection from their significant other. (It was first described in Gary Chapman's book, "The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.")

"When deciding on a gift or a tradition, you have to think what will be meaningful to the receiver instead of what is meaningful to you as the giver," she says.

In fact, Heinold says that material gifts can be worthwhile if they are purchased with purpose.

For example, if he or she has been saving for something, then you can surprise them with that as a gift.

"If you notice that they tore up their laces on their favorite shoes, then you can gift them something as simple as shoelaces," she says. "It's just an observation."

Henoid says it's all about noticing your partner's needs.

"Keep it really simple and don't be afraid to find a way to just connect with one another," she says. "Get to know what would be meaningful to them." 

Gifts of experience

Still looking for an experience that would be unique and meaningful for your partner? Consider attending any one of these upcoming events in the area.

Clay for Couples

When: 6:30 to 9 p.m., Feb. 14

Where: Studio 5 at Katherine Kilbourne Center for Creativity, 720 First Ave., N. Fargo

Info: One of the Plains Art Museum's most popular programs, Clay for Couples, teaches wheel throwing and handbuilding techniques. Clay and tools are provided. Attendees can choose their finishing glaze for whatever they create. Those interested are encouraged to purchase the $50 entrance fee for couples early as the class usually fills up. Register online at

Valentine's Day Throw-Miscuous Bags Tourney

When: 6 to 10 p.m., Feb. 14

Where: Drekker Brewing Company, 630 First Ave. N., Suite 6, Fargo

Info: Their first open-entry tournament, Drekker Brewing Company invites both couples and single players. Cost is $10 to enter the tournament and participants must be 21 and older. The tournament is double-elimination, and entry fee will be used as payout for the top-placing teams. To register, send an email to Find out more information by searching the event on Facebook.

Bad Weather Burlesque Valentine Show

When: 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., Feb. 15

Where: Shotguns Sally's, 1515 42nd St. S., Fargo

Info: Local burlesque troupe invites all to the "sexy, seductivie risque and heartorgasmic show." Tickets are $5, or $10 for VIP. Find out more by searching the event on Facebook.

Cultivating Self Love Workshop

When: 6 to 8:30 p.m., Feb. 16

Where: Naturally Randi Kay Studio, 14 and 1/2, Eighth St. S., Fargo

Info: "Even if you are currently in a relationship, you must first learn how to love yourself," Heinold says. "The reality is, you can't love someone else fully until you love yourself."

Heinold encourages couples or singles to attend the self love workshop. Partnering with Artist Nichole Rae, this event is simple but profound, teaching effective affirmation and journaling techniques to deepen understanding of self. Light refreshments will be available. Cost is $45 and includes journal and supplies to make personalized collage, a collection of affirmations, The Art of Daily Practice mini creative journaling guide, Self Care Practices for the Home and a small bottle of essential oil. Find out more information at