romantic grand gesture

People love surprises and even crave the unexpected. It’s actually a proven fact. According to scientists at Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine, the human reward pathways in the brain respond strongly to the unpredictable. This concept definitely translates to LOVE! For example, take the “grand romantic gesture.” The element of surprise amps up one’s reaction to a display of love.

Whether you’ve been together for months or many years, unexpected grand romantic gestures make for memorable love moments. So, here’s an idea: Instead of planning a typical date night, coordinate an extra special surprise for your partner… it’ll be the ultimate grand romantic gesture!

By the way, if you want to learn how to become a pro at “moment making,” check out The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and‎ Dan Heath.

 Tips for Planning a Surprise

  • Mum’s the word. Some gutsy planners may stay completely tight-lipped about the upcoming surprise. Others may prefer to offer a hint or two. You can tell your partner that you have a surprise in the works without sharing further details. That way, he/she will save the date and let the anticipation intensify. You can go a step further, such as advising to pack a bag, change of clothes, etc.
  • Be creative. Memories are made with details! It’s the little things that’ll impress your love in a big way. So don’t be afraid to ask for help and hunt for resources. Insight from others can take things to the next level. Restaurant managers, for example, may be excited to participate in your grand romantic gesture with customized menus, messaging on dessert plates and so on. If you’re on a budget, get date ideas by skimming deals on Groupon or LivingSocial. From couples’ massages to hot air balloon rides, plenty of surprises can be inspired (and purchased at a discounted rate) on these sites.
  • Remember intent. The whole purpose is to woo your boo. So, plan an experience that aligns with your partner’s interests. Be sure to handle all necessary logistics – i.e. the babysitter – so your partner can focus on the surprise without distractions.
grand romantic gesture
Photo credit: Hawaiian Tourism Authority

Five Ideas for Surprise Experiences

1. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts can be as elaborate or simple as your heart desires – and super fun just the same. You can coordinate an intense search throughout your city or keep it confined to the walls of your home.

Home: Stash little treasures or props (pictures, cards, etc.) throughout the house with clues leading from one find to the next. Don’t forget to utilize all areas of your property like the garage, yard, mailbox and, of course, every room. Craft a short poem or riddle for each spot. For example: clue = “You know how to rev my engine here, there and everywhere;” answer = car. The final clue could lead to a romantic backyard picnic, special bottle of wine at your wet bar or to the bed (wink wink).

City: A destination scavenger hunt can be held in one set place, like a park, or scattered throughout your town with each clue leading to a new site. Do think about transportation – will your partner walk, bike or drive (and with or without you)? Either create riddles (similar to the home hunt version) or provide a checklist of things to be found and documented with a photo as proof. Maybe your partner has to go to the restaurant where you had your first date and snag a menu… you get the idea. If applicable, provide a bag to collect hunt items.

Group:  Scavenger hunts are a great activity for group dates, birthday parties and many other occasions. Prepare a destination hunt to be tackled by teams, including your surprised partner. Consider presenting the hunt checklist in a fun format, incorporating a theme and setting a time limit.

grand romantic gesture
Photo credit: Personalised Couple’s Treasure Hunt by Martha Brook (via

2. First Date… Take Two

You remember your relationship firsts: the first date, first kiss, first sleepover, first “I love you.” I’m sure you recall experiencing those first date jitters, too. Channel those lovely butterflies and let your heart flutter again by recreating your very first date night from start to finish.

  • Dress to impress. If possible, wear the same garments you wore on that special night. If you no longer have them, choose similar items.
  • Recycle the routine. Replicate the exact itinerary. Stop by the restaurant earlier in the day to reserve the same booth. Then, order the same meals and drinks. If you visited a venue with live entertainment, try calling ahead to request a song that you heard on your first date.
  • Behave. You wanted to make a great first impression, so you likely were on your best behavior. Get yourself back in that mindset. Did you bring flowers, open the car door, hold hands, etc.? Mind your manners like the nervous version of your former dating self.
  • Talk the talk. Try to recount your first date conversation. Go ahead and ask all of those getting-to-know-ya questions that you likely rambled off on your first date. You might even learn something new about each other.

Recreating this nostalgic experience as a grand romantic gesture can stimulate your feelings! After this take two of your first date, you might find that your end of the night kiss erupts with fireworks just like the first time.

grand romantic gesture

3. Favorite Things for Your Favorite Person

Sometimes, in the chaos of our busy lives, we simply don’t get to experience the things we enjoy most on a regular basis. Surprise your partner with an entire day spent doing all of his/her favorite things. You can stick to one theme or mix together a sampling of favorites however you like. Does your love desire a little pampering? How about breakfast in bed followed by a couples massage at the spa? Prefer some fun in the sun? How about a trip to the beach and rentals of beach bikes and stand-up paddles boards?

My husband is always hungry for good grub and games! He loves a big breakfast but that plain old bowl of cereal is just an easy-peasy, frequent staple. So, for a surprise favorite day, I could either whip up a romantic breakfast in bed or treat him to a Sunday Funday brunch. Then, instead of passing the day watching his favorite sport on the boob tube, I could snag stadium tickets to an MLS soccer game. Then, I could schedule a brewery tour and drink up his smile over craft beers.

breakfast in bed
Photo credit: Hedonism By Sisi

4. Surprise Party (But Not for Birthday)

Nothing beats the stunned look of the guest of honor walking into a surprise party. Here’s a thought: Don’t wait for your partner’s birthday to surprise him/her with a celebration. Birthdays don’t own the rights to surprise parties! You can coordinate a secret bash for other milestones, like promotions, anniversaries, events (my Spaniard would flip over a surprise Barcelona-themed soccer soiree), etc. Or, plan a surprise experience with your party-going friends, such as with a scavenger hunt, party bus night out, game night or anything you wish. One time, I secretly flew in my husband’s out-of-state family and booked them a round of golf to enjoy together. The party was flowing on the green, golf cart and beyond! Score… talk about a sneaky hole-in-one experience courtesy of the wifey 🙂


  • Send out e-vites weeks in advance. Ask that RSVPs be made via the invitation website or email so your love doesn’t get suspicious with an influx of calls and texts. Make sure that invitees know that the gathering is a surprise so they don’t spill the beans to your partner.
  • Make reservations and cleverly hide decorations. Call in a favor or two with your bestie to stash items at his/her place.
  • Pick a location that your partner normally frequents, so he/she isn’t suspicious when you suggest a visit. Or, be creative in getting your love to the destination with a little help from friends.
  • Consider parking cars offsite. Your pals won’t mind parking a block away and walking over. You don’t want to risk your partner spotting a familiar car and figuring out the plan.
  • If you have a theme, be sure to bring an appropriate item for your partner to fit in. For example, if you’re hosting a surprise luau to celebrate your upcoming couples trip to the islands and your partner shows up in a football jersey, have a floral top on hand for a quick wardrobe change.
adult camps
Photo credit: Camp Bonfire

5. Weekend Away

A mini-vacay can offer a relationship recharge to the max. You can either tackle all logistics for your partner, including bravely packing for him/her; or, on the day of the surprise departure, give your love one hour to pack. Just offer packing tips, like whether to bring a formal outfit, bathing suit, sneakers, etc. Sometimes last minute travel deals can be found online and make for the best spur of the moment surprises.

Staycation: You can drive together or rev things up by arriving before your partner. This will grant you time to set the mood in the room by chilling champagne, sprinkling rose petals on the bed and ordering room service. Tell your partner that you’ll provide the address, room number and time to meet.

Getaway: Road tripping? Plan ahead by stocking your partner’s favorite snacks, magazines and road tunes. Want to take the romantic vacay to new heights? Book a flight to a destination on your partner’s bucket list. Be sure he/she packs identification and, if needed, a current passport. Order travel resources from visitor centers and have them shipped to your workplace rather than your home so your partner doesn’t find planning items in the mailbox. For the cherry on top, plan the trip around a sporting event or concert that you know your partner will love.

couple's vacation

Feature image credit:


Nancy DeVault is the managing editor of Date Night Guide. She also contributes to publications such as Babble, AmeriDisability Services Magazine and Orlando Magazine. She enjoys outdoor adventures with her husband and toddler.