From the moment I stood gazing up at the twinkling Eiffel Tower at the young age of 5, I’ve had a (mildly healthy) obsession with Paris. While the first baby book I picked up when I found out I was pregnant was Bringing Up Bébé and one of my resolutions for 2022 is to learn their beautiful language, embracing Valentine’s Day as if I am standing outside the Louvre with a baguette in hand and a silk scarf tied around my neck is not totally unusual.
I suppose that one of the many reasons I’m so intrigued by French culture is because of how romantic I perceive it to be (thanks to one very influential architect). That’s why, with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to find out how the experts on love really celebrate.
Not surprisingly, in France, Valentine’s Day (ak.a. “la Saint-Valentin” or “la fête des amoureux”) is all about love and lovers. It seems as though you only celebrate this holiday if you’re a couple and that “Galentine’s Day” is an American spin all together. Furthermore, the tradition of children participating in Valentine’s Day in the classroom or as a family dynamic also does not exist in most cases.
While the knowledge of this certainly makes me feel a bit sorry for kids and singles out there, it does make Valentine’s Day more straightforward and less commercial. The French place a high level of importance on romance, and this holiday is reserved for that purpose alone.
The French place a high level of importance on romance, and this holiday is reserved for that purpose alone.
With that in mind, if you are riding into the 14th solo, I think it’s best to take a hint from our self-assured French ladies and act totally blasé about Valentine’s Day. Don’t sulk or spend time feeling sorry for yourself. Instead, get dressed up and head out to a fancy restaurant with your girlfriends or make dinner while sipping on a glass of champagne as if it were any other evening.
Without further ado, I have created a full guide to celebrating Valentine’s Day like a French girl: from romantic phrases to use, to thoughtful gift ideas, timeless outfits, refined beauty tips, decadent recipes, and music to transport you to an idyllic Parisian café. Whether you’re madly in love or happily single this year, I’m here to supply you with the necessary resources to fulfill your French fantasies.
You don’t need to speed-read your way through Babbel in order to use a few key words in honor of Valentine’s Day. Impress your lover (or crush) with a quick phrase embodying your feelings for them.
Je t’aime – I love you
Je t'aime bien – I like you
Je t’adore – I adore you
Je suis amoureux/amoureuse de toi – I am in love with you
Je suis folle/fou de toi – I am crazy about you
Est-ce que tu veux sortir avec moi? – Would you like to go out with me?
French Gift Ideas
Skip the traditional Valentine’s Day card as this is considered very American, and celebrate your lover by planning a romantic evening and giving them a small but thoughtful gift. If they aren’t the best with gift giving, feel free to send him/her this article for a not so subtle hint.
The top three gifts that the French give for Valentine’s Day are: flowers (mainly roses), perfume, and jewelry. Other popular gifts include lingerie, chocolates, and clothes.
Pro tip: If perhaps you’ve fallen behind in planning this year, feel free to use the Covid-induced shipping delays as an excuse for why your gift is arriving late.
French Outfit Ideas
One of the things I admire most about French women is that they always appear styled with ease. They radiate confidence, and it makes no difference if they’re wearing a baggy sweater and vintage denim or a tweed mini skirt and heels – they know that they look beautiful. Keep this in mind when you’re getting ready for Valentine’s Day this year.
French women don’t overthink their outfits or spend hours planning what to wear. Rather, they choose clothes they feel comfortable (yet polished) in. Whether you’re getting dressed for a walk in the park, a fancy restaurant reservation, or a relaxed evening at home, maintain an “effortlessly romantic” theme for your outfit.
For a Walk in the Park
For a Romantic Dinner
For an Evening at Home
French Beauty Tips
Keep Your Makeup Simple
Skip the heavy contour, full-coverage foundation, and dark eyeshadow. Instead, focus on highlighting and embracing your natural features with a little mascara and a swipe of lipstick or sheer lip balm. The key is to look like you nearly “woke up like this.”
Once again, you obviously don’t want to look frumpy, but French women don’t spend hours agonizing over every flaw in the mirror while getting ready to leave the house. Allow your hair to air dry or style it in a way that resembles bed head, smudge your eyeliner a bit, and don’t worry if your lips aren’t perfectly lined.
Always Add Perfume
A French woman wouldn’t dare leave the house without a spritz of perfume, and they generally have a collection of fragrances to choose from based on their mood and plans for the day. I can’t picture anything more romantic than to leave behind a subtle scent causing your lover to think of you long after your date.
In France, many restaurants create a special menu for the 14th with a reservation required well in advance. However, if you haven’t yet made plans, skip the crowds and celebrate the holiday with your beloved at home. Try one (or all) of these French-inspired recipes together to make your evening more intimate.
Cocktail: Thyme French 75, a thyme simply syrup, gin, and champagne cocktail.
Appetizer: Mini Croque Monsieur, a puff pastry and béchamel sauce French classic.
Dinner: Slow Cooker French Wine and Mustard Chicken, a chicken dish with white wine, creamy Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, and parmesan cheese.
Dessert: Pear Frangipane Tart, a poached pear and almond cream tart.
Half of setting the ambiance for a romantic evening is putting on the right music. Don’t forget to hit “play” on a charming French playlist to set the mood, no matter if you’re dancing in the arms of a loved one or cooking a delicious meal alone. As someone who listens to these regularly, I can tell you that smooth French jazz allows you to romanticize every moment (crying newborn or not).
3 Spotify Playlists
There you have it! French girls are admired around the world for many reasons, and they certainly seem to be the experts on romance, so let’s switch things up and put ourselves in their perfectly chic, slingback shoes for a Valentine’s Day to remember.
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