Harness all the senses for a romantic Valentine’s Day

  • 14 February 2015 | Sarah Came
There's nothing like some ambient lighting and a bottle of wine to create some romance. Image courtesy of João André O. Dias

All of our senses help us to detect the mood of a space, so we should engage as many as possible when creating a romantic atmosphere.

Our primary sense is sight, so lighting is key when creating a romantic mood. Did you know that people are considered more attractive when their pupils dilate (get bigger) and that your pupils dilate in low light? If you want to create a romantic mood, try using lighting that is warm and definitely not too bright.

Everyone looks better by candlelight. Image courtesy of Dmitry Marochko

Of course, people need to know where they are walking or what they are eating, for example. But light the room only as much as is necessary. Candles are perfect for creating a low, warm light; the flickering of a flame also helps to create a romantic atmosphere.

Place candles on restaurant tables, preferably either above or below eye level – you don’t want to interrupt the lovers’ adoring gaze at one another. In a hotel, place small candles on dressing tables or in the bathroom – but remember that even the smallest flame can cause an out-of-control fire.

Make sure that candles are not near anything flammable, they are sturdy and won’t be knocked over by a gust of wind or a carless movement, and that if they do burn out, whatever they are sitting in or on won’t catch alight. If in any doubt, rather use one of the other tips.

If you have a dimmer switch on your lights, that is a perfect way to create a romantic atmosphere: dim the lights in your restaurant or in your hotel rooms. If you can set the dimmer on low in a hotel room, when the guest walks into the room and switches on the light it will immediately create a romantic atmosphere, not a jarringly bright one.

If you don’t have dimmer switches and you would rather not use candles, using small lamps rather than overhead lights can have the same effect. Place small table or floor lamps around a room to create little pools of light.

Roses are considered to be the flower of love and romance in many cultures, so decorating a room with roses or rose petals will help to create a romantic mood straight away.

As well as looking beautiful, roses also have a pleasant fragrance. The sense of smell must also be considered when creating an atmosphere. It is absolutely essential that a space doesn’t smell bad, as this will immediately put people off and create an unhappy mood. Even better than just ensuring that your space doesn’t smell bad, is to make it smell beautiful.

A rose by any other name. Image courtesy of Stuart Richards

As we have said, roses can achieve this, but there are also many other tricks. Scented candles, room spray, good food, and other types of flowers all also create pleasant smells in your space. Get creative: you could also spray perfume on pillows, dab fragranced oils on light bulbs (before you turn them on, of course) and smell the fragrance in the air as the bulb heats, or any other clever idea you can think of.

Sound is also useful for creating a romantic mood. Of course, music is a matter of taste, but you will usually be safe with soft, slow-tempo songs. Do a bit of research and make a playlist or CD especially for Valentine’s Day.

Live music can create an exceptionally romantic mood, if it is the right kind of music. Be careful when choosing romantic music for Valentine’s Day, but you will probably know the right thing when you hear it.

The sense of touch is also important: clean, soft linen, comfortable chairs and freshly laundered tablecloths all make a difference to your guests’ experience. Just as important is temperature. Your room or rooms should be neither too cold nor too hot.

Both sweating and shivering are not exactly attractive, and someone who is too cold or hot is likely to be preoccupied and not notice all the other wonderful decoration you have put such an effort into, or the ambience it has created. You want your guests as happy and comfortable as possible.

Finally, the sense of taste should be considered. If you run a restaurant, this really goes without saying, but remember that your guests are most likely there for a special occasion, and tasteless food will ruin their night.

Don’t think that you can’t cater for the sense of taste in a hotel. Little chocolates on the pillows at turndown, especially heart-shaped ones, will be an indulgence for your guests, and even if they don’t eat chocolate, it will still make them feel special.

And if your guests are drinkers (always ask first), then wine, lots of wine.